04-21-22 | Feature

Bridging Bixby

The first bridge in this area that crossed the Arkansas River
by Staff

When a new vehicular bridge (far right) was built across the Arkansas River in Bixby, Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation gifted the old bridge, built in the 1930s, to the city, which then made it the primary pedestrian connection, within the Bixby Trail System, to connect the north side and south side of town. Planning Design Group (PDG) was put in charge to transform the bridge into an economically-viable and appealing public space. PDG's responsibilities included research, planning, conceptual design, construction detailing, and construction administration and management.
The old steel bridge had structural issues that had to be addressed. After repairs were made, the new deck was installed. It included a surface of Transpo methyl methacrylate from Transpo Industries, Inc., put in by Cillesen and Sons, Inc. located in Wichita, Kansas. The bridge joint material is Wabo Safety Flex SFP-600 from Watson Bowman Acme.
The new bridge exudes a park-like setting with seating and play areas. Directing the pedestrian traffic is a striped trail across the entire bridge. The site furnishings from Landscape Forms, who also provided mingle seating tables and bike racks, include these Chill loungers and waste receptacles.
An important amenity in the design was educational signage that provided information about the history of the bridge and the history and ecosystem of the Arkansas River. The signage used National Park Service (NPS) style, single pedestal signs with surface mounts.
The 2,000-linear-foot bridge can even house events with food trucks. The shade structures include a 25'x 100' custom cantilevered structure and 12' x 30' hip roofs. Underneath this shade structure are parallel benches made of Ipe wood.
The custom lighting on the bridge can be programmed together or independently to create limitless light shows to celebrate holidays and public awareness opportunities. The fixtures include RGBW LED post lights, and custom pylon LED lights with direct view, RGB media tubes.
Half balls were designed to be incorporated with synthetic turf mounds, which were specified to have Insulfoam berms, Polygreen foam padding and synthetic turf, all provided by local supplier ACS Playgrounds.
Musical equipment included a goblet drum, kundu drum, kettle drum, grandioso chimes, vivo chimes, and Cascata bells.
Also incorporated in the design were rubber cubes for child's play, viewing scopes, stainless steel removable bollards and an emergency phone. Key partners in the project included Cyntergy AEC's structural and electrical engineering departments and the city of Bixby's general contractor, Myers-Cherry Construction.

Harmony Bridge is a 2,000 linear foot bridge that crosses the Arkansas River in Bixby, Oklahoma. The bridge serves as the only pedestrian connection between the north and south sides of the town. Harmony Bridge was designed to tell a story, educate the public, and create a space that brings the community together in an innovative and diverse site, while keeping in mind the history of Bixby.

The first bridge in this area that crossed the Arkansas River, opened in 1911. It was labeled the longest bridge in Oklahoma. The bridge united the Bixby, Fry, Shellenbarger and Willow Springs communities, schools and markets. It was doubly important because it provided the most direct route between Oklahoma's second and third largest cities, Tulsa and Muskogee. In 1938 that bridge collapsed, causing traffic to be diverted to Jenks while a new bridge was being built about 1/2 mile west of the old bridge, which relocated Highway 64 from Riverview Drive to the new Memorial Drive.
The bridge remained in operation until the 1990s, when it was gifted to the city of Bixby from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. At that time, a new vehicular bridge was built and the gifted bridge became the primary pedestrian connection, within the Bixby Trail System, across the Arkansas River.

Bixby is one of the fastest growing cities in the state of Oklahoma this past decade, and second fastest in the Tulsa metro region, having expanded by 57%. Creating public spaces for the community is at an all-time high. The north side of Bixby consists of a big city feel with an abundance of retail, including big box stores, new neighborhoods and a more densely populated area.

The south side of Bixby has historically had the small town feel with a larger farming community. The city had aspirations to make a literal connection from north and south Bixby, and provide a space where all citizens of the community can connect in harmony.

Working with the city of Bixby, as the landscape architect, Planning Design Group (PDG) led the design team with a goal to provide a public space that was economically viable, while improving the connection between the community across the 2000 linear foot bridge. As designers, we wanted to touch all who have crossed this bridge: those that relate the Bridge to a significant moment in their life, an engagement, senior photos, a kiss, 'locking in love' with a love lock, amazing sunsets, training for marathons, or even watching the river rise during historical flooding.


This was accomplished by not only improving the pedestrian connection across the Arkansas River, but by creating recreational opportunities, providing educational experiences, and incorporating the history of the site by tying the past to present and future.

As with most communities, maintaining this steel bridge came with a large amount of time and money. The Harmony Bridge Project would provide the time and necessary repairs that would bring the old steel bridge up to standards structurally, as well as aesthetically. With the structural repairs accounted for in this project, the design team was able to focus on providing an amenity to the city of Bixby, and the Tulsa metro area, that is both unique and functional.
Changing a bridge from its intended purpose to a park-like setting comes with many constraints and opportunities. For instance, how do you maintain a designated trail area across a bridge, while providing a space for food trucks to park? How do you take a concrete and asphalt bridge and provide an area for kids to play and learn?

Through many concepts and thinking outside the box, the design team was able to provide a modified bridge that includes that park-like setting that can house events with food trucks, allow people to hang out to watch the wildlife in the river or a sunset, play with their kids on a variety of play areas and musical instruments, all while maintaining the pedestrian circulation with a designated and striped trail/path across the entire bridge.

Educational signage was provided along various points of the bridge. The signs provide information about the history of the bridge, history and facts about the Arkansas River, the ecosystem of the river, interesting facts about the bald eagles that nest in this area, descriptions of the giant fish or "River Monsters" that swim the river, and information about the other wildlife found using the river and this area as their natural habitat.
The bridge lighting was designed with custom lighting that can be programmed together or independently to create limitless light shows. This includes custom pylon structures, poles lights, and lighting in shade structures. Since the opening of the bridge, the city has provided light programs for holidays, public awareness opportunities, support for the school system by showing their colors, and many more.

Design Team
PDG, as the lead consultant on this project, provided services that included research, planning, conceptual design, construction detailing, and construction administration and management for a new and innovative project for the state of Oklahoma, while keeping in mind the history and use of the bridge.

On this project, we collaborated with the city of Bixby and our design partners, which included Cyntergy AEC's structural and electrical engineering departments. By working in harmony as a design team, we were able to create a space that will endure for generations to come, while incorporating state of the art elements that can be utilized for various events. We modified and improved the pedestrian circulation across the bridge that connects surrounding parks and the community, while maintaining and improving ADA accessibility.

We were able to collaborate with the city's general contractor, Myers-Cherry Construction, to establish construction methods that would preserve the existing structures, maintain and improve accessibility, and provide the ability to expand the uses in the future. Ultimately, the design team was able to provide a design that met and exceeded Bixby's expectations, all while keeping in mind the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

The Takeaway
Due to an overwhelming amount of use of the facility within the few months of being open, additional parking is being added to the north end of the bridge to accommodate additional visitors. This will include additional ADA parking, a lighted path to the bridge, and a connection to a new park along the banks of the Arkansas River.

Owner: City of Bixby, Oklahoma
Lead consultant/ landscape architect:
Planning Design Group (PDG)
Jim Crosby, principal, Geoff Evans, principal
Structural and electrical engineering: Cyntergy AEC
General contractor: Myers-Cherry Construction


Sign up for
LAWeekly newsletter. Get exclusive content today.