Byline: Morgan Taylor/ MM
OKMULGEE, Okla. – The Old Morris Highway Bridge is now open after a nearly two-year closure with a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 3.
Premier Steel manufactured the fast-cast bridge that was delivered on March 15.
CrossTimbers Consulting designed the bridge. McGuire Brothers contracted the project, which was completed in less than two months once construction began.
Principal Chief David Hill is grateful for the partnerships between the Nation, county, and community for projects of this caliber.
“It’s all about public safety,” Chief Hill siad. “We have a lot of Creek citizens and non-Creeks who live down this road and we do our best to help each other to make it better and safer for everyone to travel.”
An estimated 1100 vehicles travel the road daily, according to Muscogee (Creek) Nation Federal Roads Program Manager David Ford.
“That’s very busy,” Ford said. “It means a lot to the community.”
Okmulgee County Commissioner David Walker said the bridge had sustained significant damage in May 2021.
“The culvert’s dislocation washed out and the county came in and we took 2,000 pound blocks and tried to get it back going,” Walker said. “We thought we had it under control.”
In May 2022, the area experienced a severe flood with rainfall exceeding 14 inches over a period of three days. That caused the bridge to be swept out by water once again.
All that was left of the bridge were guardrails on either side of the two-lane road with a large gap where the water flows.
The highly traveled side road remained closed for the next year.
“I believe that was the third time,” Ford said. “But it was the last time.”
According to Ford, the county lacked funding to properly fix the road. That’s when the MCN stepped in.
“Federal Roads thought it would be a good opportunity,” Ford said.
The program spends anywhere from $10-14 million annually on roadway infrastructure within the Muscogee Reservation.
“We are glad we could help get this bridge open,” Ford siad.
Ford has sent an invitation to the county commissioners within the Muscogee boundaries. This opportunity will allow them to pick a bridge in their district to be funded and completed by the program.
With more bridge funding available, Ford claims reservation residents can expect to see new bridges throughout the reservation soon.