By John Greiner
Many schools across Oklahoma are using buses too heavy for
safe travel across some of Oklahoma's bridges, the director
of the state Transportation Department said this week.
Oklahoma's children aren't in immediate danger, but if drivers
ignore posted weight limits, the stability of the bridges
will be threatened, said Gary Ridley, director of the state
Transportation Department at a meeting of the Transportation
"It's not the one-time load; it's the repetitive nature
that will accelerate the deterioration. It is extremely important
to us that school officials are fully aware of the situation
so they can take safety measures," Ridley said.
The weight limit on 33 of the more than 155 bridges on the
state highway system is 15 tons or less, he said.
Some schools have buses much heavier than that, according
to a state survey in which about 50 percent of Oklahoma districts
The survey showed that 329 buses of the 1,263 reported in
the survey weigh 15 tons (30,000 pounds) or more.
It also showed that larger buses are becoming more common,
The survey only included the heaviest vehicles in a school
district, not every bus, the Transportation Department said.
The department will begin notifying the Education Department
and the Oklahoma Trucking Association by e-mail of weight
limits on bridges on the state highway system and any changes
in weight limits.
The two groups will then notify school districts and trucking
companies, respectively, Ridley said.
The Transportation Department also is proposing changing
the rules on how federal dollars can be used by counties to
replace bridges on school bus routes, Ridley said.
County governments must now give priority to using federal
dollars on bridges rated 10 tons or less on school bus routes,
The department is proposing a change to allow the federal
dollars to be used for bridges rated 15 tons or less. About
$34 million, most of it federal money, is available each year.
Ridley said three new signs showing the bridge weight limits
will be posted in each direction along routes to bridges on
the state highway system.
The first sign will be posted at the last intersection before
The second will be posted at the last place where a bus,
truck or other vehicle could turn around, he said.
The third sign will be posted at the bridge, Ridley said.