Traffic on westbound I-244 and southbound U.S. 75 now crosses a new bridge over the Arkansas River following completion of the first of a two-phase project that will replace both bridges over the Arkansas River with improved spans. Construction began on the new southbound bridge in the summer of 2011 with demolition of the old bridge. As the old bridge was demolished, work began on the new bridge. The bridge, which opened to traffic in December 2012, has three through lanes and a "merge" lane that begins at the Seventh Street entrance ramp and exits at 17th Street at the south end. The old bridge had the same lane capacity, but it also had structural problems/maintenance issues, according to reports, and needed to be replaced. The new bridge also will include a pedestrian walkway, visible below the new bridge on the left side, and spans for possible high-speed rail service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Work is continuing on these features. The project created numerous detours in the area and forced motorists to follow different routes through downtown. During construction, the westbound Broken Arrow Expressway was closed at Houston Avenue, and through (southbound U.S. 75 and westbound U.S. 64/S.H. 51) traffic was detoured around the east, north (U.S. 64 and S.H. 51 departed at the Northwest Interchange as always) and west legs (U.S. 75) of the Inner Dispersal Loop to get around the construction. The westbound ramp for U.S. 64 and S.H. 51 from the south to west legs, which was re-decked as part of the I-244 reconstruction project on the north and west legs, was closed during the bridge project, as was the ramp for U.S. 75 from the south leg to the Arkansas River bridge. This ramp received a new bridge deck as part of the project. Also closed were the Seventh Street entrance ramp to the westbound bridge and both ramps at 17th Street. During construction, southbound traffic on the west leg had a unique detour. Motorists wanting to continue on I-244 and U.S. 75 across the Arkansas River into west Tulsa were funneled onto the northbound lanes near Second Street and traveled (two lanes each way) across the northbound bridge over the Burlington Northern Railroad, through the Southwest Interchange of the Inner Dispersal Loop and across the eastbound Arkansas River bridge before returning to the southbound lanes near 21st Street. Southbound motorists wanting to travel east on the Broken Arrow Expressway remained on the southbound bridge over the Burlington Northern Railroad and then took the ramp to the east in the Southwest Interchange to connect to the Broken Arrow Expressway. Northboound traffic was unaffected. Upon completion of the bridge, all of the ramps were reopened, and all detour signs in downtown Tulsa, plus those on approaching expressways related to this project, were removed. Traffic returned to normal, but it won't remain that way for long. On Monday, March 4, 2013, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation awarded a contract to replace the eastbound I-244 Arkansas River bridge, with work scheduled to begin later this spring and be completed within two years. All traffic will be detoured onto the new westbound bridge during this time, and ramps again will close in the Southwest Interchange, including the northbound U.S. 75 ramp from the river bridge to the Broken Arrow Expressway. This ramp likely will be re-decked as part of the project, as it is the only ramp in the interchange that still has its original deck. Photo taken March 2, 2013.