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February 5, 2014

Bridge closure means extra gas expenses, travel issues for residents

NORMAN — For Purcell and Lexington residents, the James C. Nance bridge is truly a lifeline, helping people get to and from work, school, the hospital and grocery stores. Now that it’s closed, many worries and concerns have been raised.

Lexington Police Chief Deanna Allen said she is concerned for many of the elderly people who travel across the bridge to get groceries and go to the doctor.

“They use the Delta Transit bus out of Purcell because they don’t have anyone else to take them,” Allen said. “How are they going to get to the places they need to get? It’s a bad situation.”

The bridge, which stretches over the Canadian River, was closed Friday by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation after an inspection revealed cracks in the truss system.

ODOT spokesperson Larry Clore said they are working as quickly as possible to get a repair plan in place.

“The bridge has potential to collapse. We didn’t want anybody driving on it,” Clore said.

As the cracks in the bridge continue to worsen, Clore said they will try to keep those from growing larger. ODOT is hoping to have a contract awarded by March to repair the bridge, he said.

“We understand it’s a great hindrance to the people in Purcell and Lexington to have this closed, but we’re working as fast as we can. We’re gonna try to get it fixed as quickly as possible,” Clore said.

For now, a detour has been set up. Those on the Lexington side of the bridge are advised to go north on Highway 77 to State Highway 9 and then west on Highway 9 to Interstate 35 to go south to Purcell.

The detour brings problems of its own to residents and business owners in the area, though.

The police chief said several officers who live in Purcell begin their day as soon as they get into their vehicle.

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