NORMAN — When the Oklahoma Department of Transportation first placed load limits on the state highway bridge linking Purcell and Lexington in mid-January, most residents thought the problem was short-lived.
A couple of weeks later, the bridge was closed, forcing residents to make a 45-minute drive out of what usually took fewer than five minutes. Emergency repairs began on Valentine’s evening and cost in excess of $20 million.
Initially, it was believed that the bridge would be able to open sooner than the June 14 target date. Contractors discovered more cracks in the 70-plus year-old span and have stuck with the June 14 date.
We’re thankful for the contractor’s quick turnaround and the ODOT pledge not to open the bridge before it was totally safe for all motorists. There was some discussion of opening it early to cars and light trucks and pedestrians, but that plan never materialized.
As it stands now, ODOT plans to load post the bridge after it reopens Saturday to observe and inspect the bridge before heavier trucks are allowed.
The nearly five-month closure has been a tremendous economic and emotional hardship for residents on both sides of the Canadian River. It’s impacted family relationships, small and large businesses, jobs, churches, schools, the hospital, sporting events and other activities.
Now that the bridge is scheduled to reopen Saturday, it’s time for local legislators and the governor to push forward on a long-range solution to replacing the aging bridge.
Some lawmakers have talked about fast-tracking a replacement bridge. It will take years to plan and address various environmental concerns. The time to begin navigating the replacement is now.
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