Route 66 in the News

Bridge on Old 66 Closed for Safety

2013-03-25 20:16:04

SAPULPA, Okla. - The No. 18 Rock Creek Bridge has failed a state inspection, causing the Route 66 attraction to be closed to traffic.

"They found some of the trusses and the uprights that were damaged. They didn't feel safe leaving it open," Sapulpa Assistant City Manager David Gilliland said.

Contract engineers for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation made the ruling earlier this month after a round of inspections they conduct every two years.

The bridge was constructed west of Sapulpa in 1921 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

It is known as a Parker through-truss bridge, which supports weight through its overhead steel-truss design.

Built as part of the Ozark Trail, the bridge was on one of the country's few marked roads until 1926 when it became part of Route 66. It has the distinction of being part of the original Route 66. A new alignment was made in 1952 after a nearby concrete bridge was built; the road is also Oklahoma 33 at that point.

Numerous truss bridges were built along Route 66 but the No. 18 at Rock Creek is one of the few that still exist.

Gilliland said that a past repair on one of the X beams was not done correctly and that one of the upright beams had been knocked out of place.

"If it's not straight up and down, it's not doing its job," he said.

The engineers will conduct a feasibility study to see how much it will cost to repair the bridge, but Gilliland said the city does not have any bridge repair funding in the budget. Officials will also seek federal funds due to its historical significance.

The closure requires about a dozen households to travel up to a mile out of their way, Gilliland said.

The bridge has been limited to four tons for the past 10 years.

If it reopens to traffic, Gilliland said, the four-ton limit would remain -- equivalent to about two cars on the one-lane bridge.

Though the steel trusses are covered in rust, Gilliland said that is not considered to be as problematic as painting it would be because of all the paint chips that would fall into Rock Creek.

"It's surprising how many people come by," Gilliland said. "We have motorcycle convoys riding the old highway. People in cars stop to take pictures."

Mike Jeffries, director of the Sapulpa Historical Museum, said the bridge closing was not unexpected.

"Sooner or later there was going to be an issue because of its age and the traffic that probably shouldn't have been on it," he said.

But the closure will cut off access to the original Route 66, which is of particular interest to enthusiasts, travelers and overseas guests who drive the Mother Road.

"We had people from five different continents stop at the museum last year," Jeffries said.

Jeffries said the bridge needs to stay in place and connected to the original Route 66 even if it's only open to pedestrians and cyclists.

"Whatever the solution, the bridge needs to remain in place and be cared for," he said.

~Susan Hylton,


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