NORMAN — The closure of the James C. Nance Bridge in Lexington last month should be a wake-up call for state officials. That two-lane bridge is part of an aging transportation infrastructure that needs immediate attention.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has arranged for emergency repairs to the bridge that opened in 1938. The bridge could open to light traffic and pedestrians within 45 days but the total repairs may take four months.
Some Purcell and Lexington residents say it’s too little, too late and the local economies have suffered since the bridge was closed Jan. 31. A trip between Lexington and Purcell used to take five minutes. Now, it takes about 40 minutes.
The bridge is one of about 500 that were still on the list of structurally deficient spans. A new bridge will cost approximately $40 million and could take 8 to 10 years to plan and build.
The repairs should carry the bridge that long. Although the bridge was only put on the structurally deficient list recently, engineers have been watching it for years due to its age and design.
While the repairs are being made, lawmakers need to work and find a way to expedite construction of a new bridge. It shouldn’t take a collapse and possible loss of life to get policymakers’ attention.
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