NORMAN — Since learning the State Highway 77/39 bridge over the Canadian River between Lexington and Purcell will be closed through at least June — instead of March — for repairs, many area residents are taking the burden day by day.
Patsy Shelley, co-owner of Pearson’s Lumber Yard in Lexington, said the continued bridge closure is threatening the success of local businesses. The once short distance between the two towns is now a 45-minute drive, discouraging residents from doing business in the neighboring community.
“We got the word it was going to be extended, and everybody’s just walking around in a fog,” Shelley said. “We’re all going, ‘What in the world is going to happen to with this deal?’ It’s very overwhelming. You just don’t expect anything like this to happen. We’re just going through the motions.”
Shelley said before the bridge closed, her business received multiple repeat customers daily from the Purcell area. Now, with the 45-minute detour to get from one community to the next, she said she has seen a significant decline of customers.
For now, she said the business is driving select orders to Purcell for customers.
“At this point, any little item we can sell is better than zero,” she said. “But the longer this goes on, how much longer does anyone want to mess with this? That’s the fear.”
Things aren’t looking any better for larger businesses like Purcell Municipal Hospital.
Jennifer Warren, hospital chief financial officer, said 25 percent of the hospital’s business is from Lexington. Since the bridge closing, visits to the ER from Lexington, Noble, Asher and Wanette are down by 80 percent. Also, from these four areas, inpatient admissions are down by 45 percent and outpatient procedures are down by 30 percent. As a result, she said, the hospital has lost $700,000 to $800,000 gross revenue per month.