PURCELL — Local officials will join state dignitaries in celebrating the reopening Friday afternoon of the Highway 77/39 bridge over the Canadian River, one day earlier than expected.
A ceremony hosted by The Heart of Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce will begin with a prayer offering by local churches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Lexington side at 3 p.m. Friday.
The bridge, a lifeline for the two communities for more than 70 years, was closed Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered in the structure. Emergency repairs began on Valentine’s evening Feb. 14.
The first traffic across the bridge will include a parade that will conclude at Veterans Memorial Park, at the corner of Main Street and Third Street in Purcell. Dignitaries will then comment on the much-anticipated bridge opening at a press conference at the park.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, an initial load limit of 15 tons will be enforced for the first few months while the bridge is evaluated. The post limit was based on recommendations by a consultant with Modjeski and Masters, a bridge engineering, inspection and design firm based out of Pennsylvania.
Larry Clore, ODOT public information officer, said the cost for bridge repairs remains at the originally contracted budget total for $20.4 million, even after additional repairs were discovered.
With an initial contract for 264 repair devices to be applied to the bridge, Manhattan Road and Bridge contractors found 190 more repairs to be made. With new repair plates coming in as late as June, contractors are still installing final repairs to finish in time for Friday’s ceremony.
Working diligently over a crunched span of time and under the stress of the community, Clore said the contractors have been very understanding and flexible throughout the whole repair process.
“We’re very happy with the contractors and the work they have been doing,” Clore said. “They have worked so well with us and have been very accommodating.”
The bridge will remain closed to normal traffic until after the ribbon cutting.
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