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OKESA, Okla. – Construction crews are expected to complete the Okesa bridge and road project, south of the U.S. 60 turnoff, ahead of schedule and it should be ready for traffic in November, according to the Osage Nation Roads Department.

Weather conditions permitting, the improved road and bridge project should be finished and open for traffic by Thanksgiving, said Jody Burd who is the construction manager for the Roads Department. If the roadways and bridge are completely open for traffic in November, that would put the project approximately 120 days ahead of schedule, he said.

The new $1 million bridge will replace a narrower single-lane bridge (built in the 1930s) which is just east of the area, said RJ Walker, director of the Roads Department. It will be up to Osage County officials to decide whether the old bridge will be demolished.

The Nation has a contract with construction company Paragone to complete the project whose subcontractor Beechner poured concrete for the bridge deck in mid-September. When completed, the bridge deck will be 402 feet long and 32 feet wide. It will have two 12-foot driving lanes for traffic and shoulder widths of four feet.

“So far we’ve been pleased with the contractor’s work on the project,” Walker said, who added Justin Carr, construction inspector for the Roads Department, is also monitoring the project as “our eyes and ears on the job.”

A road improvement project leading from U.S. 60 to the bridge, which is about a mile south, is also underway with a retaining wall being built along the curvy hillside in an area known for its scenic views of the region’s green hills.

The Roads Department negotiated with Osage County officials on planning the $3 million road and bridge project, which is funded through federal funds received by the Roads Department. The Nation receives the federal monies through the Indian Reservations Roads program which is available to all federally recognized tribes in the country.

Each year, the Nation receives approximately $5 million in federal funding for road projects.

The Roads Department predicts it will spend $30 million to $40 million on road or transportation improvement projects (which also include sidewalks and trails) in the next five to seven years.

Another improvement project underway by the Roads Department is a six-mile stretch of Prue Road north of Prue, which is “one of the highest traveled roads in Osage County,” Walker said. The $7 million Prue Road project is being funded with $4 million in stimulus funding awarded to the Nation and the rest is covered by federal highway funds which the Nation also received.

Walker said the Roads Department is also planning to put a survey link on its Web site within a month for feedback from Osage tribal members. The Web site will also list the 28 projects that are underway or have been identified by the department.

The Osage Nation Roads Department can be reached at (918) 287-5387 and its Web site is www.osagetribe.com/tip.