Osage County drivers fearful of crumbling Highway 18 bridge, connector of Ralston, Fairfax

OSAGE COUNTY, Okla. - People living in Osage County fear plunging into the Arkansas River as they drive across the only bridge connecting them to their neighbors.

The Highway 18 bridge, which has linked Ralston to Fairfax for 78 years, has fallen into disrepair. 

From the re-bar sticking up where a cement barrier used to be to filled-in potholes too numerous to count, the bridge is crumbling and it's causing a stir among its travelers.

"When I drive over the bridge, I definitely speed because I don't trust it," said Cole Brumley.

Brumley said he crosses the bridge six times a day.

It's 1,470 feet long and the closest connecting road from Fairfax to Ralston is 10 minutes away.

A quick look under the bridge reveals wooden boards in place to support the aging structure. To Brumley, that's something he doesn't like to think about.

"They just put these wood boards to hold the cement holes up. So when the boards rot, the cement falls through," he said.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation engineer Randle White admits the bridge is structurally deficient.

"Certainly if we see something that concerns us, we consider a safety issue to the public.  We will close the bridge down, rather than let someone travel across an unsafe bridge," said White.

White says ODOT is looking to shut down the bridge and build a new one this fall, but for now Brumley and his fellow Highway 18 travelers will have to brave it.

In the meantime, White says the department is doing a lot of behind the scenes work to ensure the project's completion.

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