The Norman Transcript

Opinion

March 12, 2014

More bad bridge news

NORMAN — The news for residents of Purcell and Lexington isn’t getting any better. The Highway 77/39 bridge linking the two communities won’t be opening any time soon.

The best-scenario 45-day opening for light vehicles was pushed to 120 days at the earliest this week. That figures to Flag Day, June 14.

Engineers, joined by outside consultants, have determined there are too many cracks in the manganese alloy structure to allow any added stress to the frame. The 68-year-old bridge was closed Jan. 31, and work began on Valentine’s Day.

“It’s disappointing that we have to bring this news to you, but it is important that we bring the news to you,” Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Patterson told the transportation commission Monday.

Transportation officials want to err on the side of caution. They don’t want any kind of bridge failure. The community will have to live with the inconvenience in the name of safety.

Meanwhile, community businesses that rely on cross-bridge traffic seem to be the hardest hit. Purcell residents have more options, and Lexington drivers may be shopping more in Noble and Norman.

Some stores and at least one bank have opened temporary locations in Lexington to accommodate their customers there. The June 14 (Flag Day) date for the 120-day repair contract should be celebrated with American flags posted the length of the bridge.

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