The Norman Transcript

February 15, 2014

Repair work begins on Lexington-Purcell bridge

By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Transportation Commission awarded a $10.8 million contract Friday for emergency repairs to the bridge linking the towns of Lexington and Purcell.

State engineers had estimated a base cost of $5.5 million for the repair work, plus the potential for the contractor to earn several more million dollars by finishing the project ahead of schedule.

It will take an estimated 45 days to reopen the bridge to car and pickup traffic. The bridge must be reopened to all traffic within 120 days. All work must be completed within 150 days.

State transportation director Mike Patterson said work was starting at 5 p.m. Friday. He noted that this effort to repair the bridge has brought together

several sectors to do the work.

He applauded Gov. Mary Fallin for declaring an emergency on Feb. 5. 

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, who lives in Lexington, said he has been amazed how everyone has worked together to get these repairs done, and also to provide a shuttle service to take people from one town to the other.

“This is a community effort.  We stepped up to the plate,” Cleveland said.

State Sen. Corey Brooks, a Washington, Okla. native, applauded ODOT for detecting the cracks before the bridge collapsed.

“It is amazing what can be done, if we put our minds to it,” Brooks said.

Incentives and disincentives included in the contract are some of the most aggressive in Oklahoma Department of Transportation history, officials said.

The contractor stands to earn $2,500 per hour for beating the deadline. However, if the contractor is late, the company will be penalized $1,500 per hour.

Bobby Stem, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of General Contractors, said there are circumstances the contractor cannot control.

It is estimated that the project will entail the use of more than 200 specially made brackets installed on the bridge.

“The contractor can’t control how quickly the foundry can make them,” Stem said.

The bridge was closed on Jan. 31, when engineers were conducting a routine inspection. They discovered cracks in beams on the truss system underneath the bridge.

ODOT spokeswoman Terri Angier said this is one of the most aggressive incentives in the transporation department’s history.

Making these repairs should add several years to the life of the bridge that has accommodated about 9,000 vehicles daily. The cost of a new bridge would be in the $40 million range. The current structure was built in 1938.

At least 17 cracks were discovered when workers were doing a routine repair of the bridge in late January,

“Basically there is a manganese metal that the bridge was built with, and the bridge is just not conducive to welding,” said Larry Clore, public information officer for ODOT. “Some of these cracks are very small.  You can’t see them with the naked eye.”

Gov. Fallin directed the transportation department to set up a shuttle service between the two communities. The service has been providing transportation several times a day, but it still takes at least 50 minutes to get from one community to another.

Oklahoma has a total of 6,812 bridges, and 486 of those are considered “structurally deficient.” This means that a bridge can no longer carry the load it was designed to support or that a bridge was not originally designed to support the loads being carried.

It does not mean that all of these bridges are dangerous, but they need to be monitored.

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