By KELSY LORIN TAYLOR
Web Editor and Feature Writer
NEW LIFE: A number of bridges have been constructed over the Arkansas River in Bixby. What was once known as the Banana Bridge has stood the test of time and remains today as a footbridge.
KELSY LORIN TAYLOR for GTR Newspapers
The Muscogee Nation Trade and Commerce Authority recently announced that a once proposed project of constructing a new bridge will indeed be pursued. This new route will reach across the Arkansas River from 121st Street and Yale Avenue to 131st and Yale Place.
The north side of the bridge will stand in Tulsa while the south side will be in Jenks. The project will almost entirely be located within the Bixby School District.
The idea of building a private toll bridge over the Arkansas River is not new. In fact, in 1904 a similar bridge spanned the river in Tulsa near present day 11th Street.
Since the project was first proposed in 1996, its completion has become a goal for many area leaders. In a previous article, Mayor Ray Bowen mentioned his determination to see the project through due to the positive impact that it would have on those living in Bixby and surrounding communities.
In its entirety, the proposal has been incorporated into the strategic transportation plan for similar reasons. Once built, the bridge would create access to a large part of southern Tulsa County for a variety of residential, commercial, industrial and recreational developments.
Investment opportunities will be made available and new development will most likely result in an increase in property and a variety of other tax revenue.
The project will bring a $1 billion investment to the area and will result in the creation of hundreds to even thousands of jobs.
The bridge will also provide an alternate route that will greatly relieve current traffic flow. This would directly affect Memorial Drive and Highway 75, which currently comprise two of the main north to south corridors in the area.
Specifically in 2006, it was estimated that trips per day along Memorial Drive and Highway 75 would be reduced by an average of 10,000.
The tribe is attempting to get everything in order to begin the project but has met many challenges along the way. A total of 42.5 acres has been purchased recently and the tribe is hoping that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs will put the land in a trust. Once this occurs, it would give the go ahead for the project.
Additionally, many have a variety of concerns about the proposal that include traffic disruptions, sales tax increases, zoning problems and the demands that will be placed on the area.
The original bridge in the Bixby was built in 1911 and was recognized as the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. The goal of the project was to keep the community connected to others in the area.
The total cost of the project was $69,000 and it was a proven investment when thousands stood in the pouring rain to watch the official dedication of the bridge.
Tragically in 1938, the bridge collapsed into the Arkansas River along with a number of vehicles. Determined to overcome, another bridge was soon constructed in its place.
Soon, the new brightly painted yellow curved rails of the bridge earned the nickname Banana Bridge. Only 24 feet across, the bridge soon became a navigable challenge for the increased number of cars and school buses traveling across it everyday.
In 1988, the current standing Spartan Pass was constructed alongside of the Banana Bridge, which now serves as part of a recreational trail.
The Spartan Pass and footbridge would still remain in the area but traffic would be alleviated once the proposed bridge was completed.
For continued updates and progress about the proposed bridge project, visit www.gtrnews.com.