Replacement of the Highway 18 bridge over the Arkansas River State near Ralston was approved recently by the Oklahoma Transportation Commission.

Commissioners voted Nov. 4 to award a contract on the more than $13 million project. The existing truss bridge, which connects Osage and Pawnee counties, was built in 1935.

The contract was one of 27 gaining approval at the meeting. In all, more than $57 million worth of road, bridge and highway improvement projects were advanced by the commission.

Oklahoma Department of Transsportation Executive Director Mike Patterson told the OTC that federal funding for projects appears to have been secured through at least Jan. 15 as a result of the temporary resolution of the recent U.S. Government shutdown.

Patterson said there is an ongoing need for restoration of revenue sources flowing into the federal Highway Trust Fund. Without that fund, financing cannot by assured for many of ODOT’s planned future projects.

The transportation director said declining federal revenues from fuel and motor vehicle excise taxes have caused a $9 billion shortfall in the fund, which provides major assistance to states for road and bridge construction and repairs.

Approximately 50 percent of the projects on the eight-year plan of ODOT is funded by the federal money, Patterson said.

"We’re closely monitoring the situation with the Highway Trust Fund and preparing to delay putting new projects out for bid, if necessary," said the executive director.