Lake Overholser Bridge
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Lake Overholser Bridge carries local traffic as part of North
Overholser Dr. and is half a mile west of Council Rd. in
Oklahoma City, OK.
Overholser Bridge in Oklahoma City is a proud reminder of Route
66. During the early 1920s, automobiles were replacing horses
and buggies on Oklahoma roads which, at that time, were not part
of an organized system but were instead an assortment of poorly
maintained lanes connecting rural villages to county seats.
Navigating from one part of Oklahoma to another was not always
easy. The development of a State highway system and the coming
of Route 66 changed all that.
In 1924, the State Highway
Commission made a bold move. The commission published a State
road map showing Oklahoma’s 5,000 miles of road and labeling
them as highways identified by numbers 1 to 26. The map
described each State highway by the towns through which it
passed. The commission also determined that each highway was to
be marked by a sufficient number of official State highway
signs, in the center of which would be a figure denoting the
number of the highway.
One of these new State highways
was old Highway 3, which ran east and west from Fort Smith,
Arkansas, to Texola on the Texas border over a different route
than today’s Highway 3. Known also as the Postal Road, Highway 3
was a primary corridor stretching across Oklahoma, but very
little of it had pavement. What little pavement there was on
Highway 3 washed away along with every bridge in the Oklahoma
City area during the massive floods of 1923. For two years,
traffic on the Postal Road had to use a ferry to cross the
Canadian River where it emptied into Oklahoma’s water reservoir,
the Overholser Lake.
The need for a new bridge was
obvious. Construction of the Overholser Bridge began in 1924 and
the bridge opened for traffic in August of 1925. Accommodating a
wide bed of 20 feet for traffic, the Overholser was no ordinary
bridge. The engineers who designed it not only used the new
steel truss technology, but also combined a variety of trusses
in unusual ways. With both Parker through trusses and pony
trusses, the 748-foot bridge is not only an unusual design, but
a balanced and elegant one.
The bridge was no sooner
finished than its status began to change. The local press
reported that the old Highway 3 was being considered as part of
one of the routes to be designated a U.S. Highway. When the path
of Route 66 was announced the next year, Highway 3 was part of
the plan. When Route 66 left Oklahoma City, it carried travelers
over the Lake Overholser Bridge.
For more than three
decades the bridge served as a critical link for motorists
traveling across the State and country. Some were vacationers,
others crossed this bridge with hopes of finding better lives
further west, and others were part of the trucking industry
which was rapidly replacing rail transport. The volume was
tremendous. By the 1950s, the bridge could not sustain this
level of constant traffic. Heavily chromed cars with shapely
fins had to sit too long at the bottleneck the bridge had
become. In 1958, the Federal Government took action, replacing
this segment of Route 66 with a new four-lane divided highway
just to the north. The new section included a wider bridge,
while local traffic continued to pass over the Lake Overholser
Today it carries only local traffic, yet the
symmetry and size of the old bridge still catch the eye of
drivers speeding by on the more recent replacement lanes just
north of the bridge. Officially, the Overholser Bridge
lost its association with Route 66 in 1958, but its size and
symmetry and long-time service as part of old Route 66, make it
a landmark today for anyone traveling America’s Mother Road.
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 2004.