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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Office of the Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, DC 20590

Monday, July 29, 2002
Contact: Bill Outlaw
Telephone: 202-366-0660
FHWA 32-02

Federal Highway Administrator Applauds Coordination Among Federal, State Governments and Private Sector For Reconstruction of I-40 Bridge in Half of Time Projected

Webbers Falls, OK-Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters today said the reopening of the I-40 bridge in eastern Oklahoma in record-setting time - less than half of the six months it normally takes - was brought about because of the tremendous coordination between the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation and private sector contractors who worked on the bridge.

The I-40 Bridge, which spans the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, OK, was struck on the morning of May 26 by a barge that veered several hundred feet from the river's navigational channel. The impact caused the collapse of four spans of the bridge, killing 14 people.

"On behalf of President Bush and Secretary Mineta, I salute the people in the public and private sectors who worked so hard to restore this vital link in America's transportation system in record time," Peters said at a news conference today to reopen the bridge to traffic. "The rapid reopening of one of the nation's busiest east-west routes will result in the savings of millions of dollars to our economy and help put the region back on the road to prosperity."

By reopening the bridge in just more than two months after the May 26 disaster, Oklahoma DOT set a record for a project of this size and magnitude.

"The quick response of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and private sector contractors combined with the innovative approaches provided for in the contracting and construction process serve as an example of how our country responds to meet challenges," Peters said.

Immediately after the accident, the FHWA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, provided $3 million in emergency relief funds to the state as a "down payment" to provide the immediate funding the state needed to get the planning and design started without delay.

In addition, the FHWA's Oklahoma Division office provided technical expertise and assistance throughout the rebuilding process, continually assisting the state in the evaluation and implementation of innovative contracting procedures. FHWA also had personnel at the site shortly after the collision and immediately began to evaluate the damage and identify detour routes. The U.S. Coast Guard also assisted in the rescue and recovery efforts immediately following the accident.

The state used both innovative contracting practices and construction techniques to provide additional incentives to enable the contractor to rebuild the bridge in just 65 days, less than half the normal six-month time. The innovative procedures included a modified design-build approach that enabled the design of the replacement structure to be completed in 16 days.

In addition, construction was expedited through providing incentive/disincentive provisions as part of an hourly contract to encourage completion of the project as quickly as possible.

"The success of these innovative approaches sends an important signal to all Americans that our nation has the ability to make immediate repairs to our road and bridge system that minimizes economic impact and provides needed mobility and safety to motorists," Peters said.

The cost to rebuild the bridge is estimated at $24 million, including the cost for detours established to handle the I-40 traffic and other essential repairs. The FHWA will continue to work with the state to determine eligibility for additional emergency relief funds.

The federal emergency relief program reimburses the state for the damage repair work that is already completed and provides funding for the remaining damage repair work to correct major or unusual damage to federal-aid highways. In addition to establishing detours, eligible repair work includes reconstructing damaged bridges and pavement surfaces, removing slides and debris, and replacing signs, lighting and guardrails.


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