NORMAN — The bridge over the Canadian River that connects Lexington and Purcell has long been the lifeline between the two communities. Built in 1938, the James C. Nance bridge got a reprieve when the interstate opened with the crossing at Norman in the 1950s.
Now, the two-lane span is becoming Exhibit A in the state’s list of structurally deficient bridges. It was put on the deficient list in 2012 because of its outdated design standards.
Trucks and buses that head east off of the interstate will now have to find alternative routes while crews from the state Department of Transportation look for a way to repair the span.
Law enforcement reported significant damage to the east end of the bridge, closest to Lexington. Engineers originally dropped the load limit to five tons, which would have eliminated school buses and some emergency vehicles. It will now have a posted 16-ton weight limit.
Following the 2002 I-40 Arkansas River bridge collapse, Oklahomans began to get serious about replacing outdated bridges. The collapse, caused by an errant boat, forced the detour of an estimated 20,000 vehicles per day onto an outdated bridge nearby.
In 2007, about 1,100 bridges were on the structurally deficient list. ODOT has since reduced that to 556.
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