Guthrie bridge features decorative supports that few will see
GUTHRIE — A new $17.25 million bridge on State Highway 33 features decorative concrete arches that few motorists will see.
The new, state-funded construction will replace an 80-year-old structurally deficient bridge that spans Cottonwood Creek west of downtown Guthrie.
The completed structure will feature decorative arches and lamp posts, as well as stained concrete beams.
Sue Smith, 70 of Edmond, passes by the bridge construction project each day on her way to work in Guthrie. She told The Oklahoman she fears the bridge's decorative features are a waste of taxpayer money, because nobody will see underneath the bridge.
"I go past this construction every day, and it really irritates me to look at these supposedly beautiful columns that nobody is going to see once the bridge is built," Smith said.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation worked together with merchants in downtown Guthrie and the State Historic Preservation office to create an aesthetically pleasing design for the new bridge, said Cody Boyd, a spokesman for the Transportation Department.
"It's replacing a historic bridge that has been there for 80 years and it had a very distinctive look to it," Boyd said.
The old bridge was a "maintenance headache" in need of constant repairs, Boyd said.
The Transportation Department spent an estimated $250,000 each year to maintain the old bridge, which frequently experienced buckling and holes, due to its age.
Because the bridge supports are made from concrete, the decorative elements won't add additional cost of the bridge project, Boyd said.
The bridge and a portion of State Highway 33 are also to be expanded to four lanes as part of the project to accommodate projected increases in traffic.
In 2015, about 12,500 vehicles used the bridge each day, and the Transportation Department expects bridge traffic to grow to about 16,800 vehicles daily by 2036.
"We try to look at traffic at least 20 years out in the future," Boyd said.
While the old bridge is about 700 feet long, the new bridge will be higher and lengthened to just more than 1,600 feet. The Transportation Department decided to more than double the length of the bridge to solve the problem of continuous flooding issues in the area, Boyd said.
"The public will be able to see a good portion of it," he said.
Manhattan Road & Bridge Co. of Tulsa is the contractor for the project, but the company did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
No matter who sees the bridge's decorative arches, Smith said she still believes the state should take a harder look at how it spends its money on construction projects.
"Oklahoma can't seem to balance its budget," she said, "and I think this is one of the reasons why — they spend it in excessive ways."