The Norman Transcript

Opinion

February 6, 2014

Tap the emergency fund

NORMAN — A longtime reader has a suggestion for expediting the repair of the Lexington-Purcell bridge over the Canadian River: Lawmakers could tap the state’s rainy day fund and get a contractor working on it immediately.

The case, he said, was similar to the collapse of the Interstate 40 bridge southeast of Webbers Falls on Memorial Day Weekend in 2002. That disaster took 14 lives, including that of a Norman police officer and his wife.

State highway engineers are still deciding how to repair or rebuild the bridge, which closed to all traffic this past week. It was opened in 1938 and was named for longtime Purcell newspaper publisher and lawmaker James C. Nance.

Additionally, the bridge was reinforced in 1982 to support a large pipeline, which carries fresh water from a well field east of Lexington to Purcell.

A March contract letting is envisioned for an emergency repair, but that may be too little, too late. Six months is a whirlwind for building such a bridge. The closure is disrupting families, schools, businesses and churches.

The State Highway 77/39 bridge in Lexington carried about 9,000 cars and trucks per day, and the I-40 span carried about 20,000. Contractors reopened the I-40 span two months after the collapse.

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