ATOKA, OK-A century-old bridge in Atoka will soon get much needed repairs after bridge inspectors deemed it unsafe.
The Dairy Lane Bridge in Atoka was built in 1910 and it still has its original metal frame, along with a few of its wooden boards. But with age and heavy use, the bridge is falling apart.
Wooden planks start shifting and creaking as several drivers cross the Dairy Lane Bridge Friday.
Tushka Public Schools Superintendent, Bill Pingleton, said their school buses have driven through the bridge for years because they thought it was safe.
"I feel like at that point it will be okay, but it certainly looks like we probably pushed it," he said.
But according to Oklahoma Department of Transportation bridge inspectors, the 103-year-old bridge is "fracture critical"--the lowest rating a bridge could get without shutting it down.
County Commissioner, Phillip Culbreath said drivers can still cross the bridge, but it's in desperate need of repair because it's been over 20 years since it was last maintained.
"All of the wooden stringers under these wooden planks are starting to rot, they won't hold the nails. So all of those will have to be replaced," he said.
The bridge can only support vehicles weighing up to 8 tons, which is less than the legal load limit to carry a school bus.
That's why Tushka school officials made the call to prohibit school buses from crossing the rickety structure.
"You know that's a scary thought. We've been over that bridge, I guess the school's been going over that bridge since it's been there," Pingleton said.
Culbreath said they're working with Union Pacific to fix the bridge because it's on railroad property. He said the upcoming repairs would hopefully help raise the bridge's weight limit.
"It would be a great thing. This is a direct access to highway 69/75 and it would be great for people living on the east side of the bridge," he said.
But even if the bridge gets fixed, Pingleton said the district wouldn't risk it.
"We don't have any future plans of going over that bridge until something is done and we're not convinced that the bridge will ever be suitable," he said.
Culbreath said Union Pacific is expected to start working on the Dairy Lane Bridge on Monday and it will take a few days before it reopens. So if you cross the bridge often, you may have to find another route.