NORMAN — Ray Cole wonders every day if his business will have to close. Cole is one of many Lexington and Purcell business owners struggling financially since the 76-year-old James C. Nance Memorial Bridge closed Jan. 31.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation closed the bridge over U.S. 77 and State Highway 39, linking Lexington and Purcell, due to cracks in its support system. Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency on Feb. 7 in Lexington and Purcell.
Cole helps operate Cole’s Plant Farm in Lexington with his daughter. He estimates that his business has lost $5,000 to $10,000 since his seasonal store opened in February. The once-empty shelves at his outdoor boutique are now full of flowers and plants he can barely sell to customers.
“Every day you wonder if you’re going to make it. It’s been rough. The scariest part is wondering what’s going to happen next,” Cole said.
Charlie McCown, Lexington city manager, views the bridge closure for both the city of Lexington and the city of Purcell as devastating.
“The traffic through town has been reduced dramatically, and the same thing has happened in Purcell,” McCown said. “It has been a very impactful event certainly no one would have asked for and we would like to have it fixed tomorrow, but it’s not going to.”
The bridge is scheduled to reopen on or before June 14, ODOT said.
Until the bridge reopens, Lexington is attempting a number of initiatives to support an increase in business and traffic flow. One initiative to support flagging businesses is Lexington’s annual celebration of the anniversary of the April 22, 1889, land run.
The ’89er event starts at 3 p.m. Friday on NE Second Street. McCown hopes the event will bring more tires driving on the street and shoes walking on the ground than Lexington has had recently.