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Oklahoma receives millions in federal funds to repair local bridges

Michael Kesler / Flickr

Oklahoma will receive $53 million this year – and about $267 million over five years – to repair outdated bridges from the federal Bridge Construction Program.

The federal program is expected to repair around 15,000 highway bridges nationwide. A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers shows that as recent as 2019, 10.2% of Oklahoma's bridges were rated structurally deficient.

Polly Trottenberg, the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said funds from the program will first focus on bridges in need of repair that are important connectors for local residents, farmers and businesses.

“One feature of this program that I think is important for Oklahoma, you know, particularly a focus on investing in local bridges and in rural bridges and bridges in tribal areas,” Trottenberg said. “Areas where we’re in need of more investment, more job creation, more ability to economic opportunity.”

This program follows Oklahoma’s plan to expand public transit, which was delivered to the state legislature in December.

Because this program is part of a larger infrastructure bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Trottenberg says there will be future discretionary programs involving bridges, roads and transit. The department is also investing in highway improvements.

Tim Gatz, Oklahoma’s secretary of transportation, said in anticipation of the infrastructure bill passing, the state’s Department of Transportation increased the federal funding projection by about 20% in its eight-year construction work plan. He said this enabled the state’s department to have projects ready for investment.

“We’re fully prepared to administer those dollars in both the local system and on the state highway interstates and U.S. numbered routes,” Gatz said. “We’ll have projects ready to go.”

Gatz said the department has been focusing on bridge infrastructure in the state and this additional funding from the funding projection increase allowed the department to pull more projects into the program. Although investments are being made, specific guidance and requirements for the state’s federal funds have not been released.

Anna Pope was an intern at KOSU between May 2021 to May 2022.
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