LEXINGTON — An oversized pair of red scissors gleamed in the sunlight as their blades cut through the barrier that severed Lexington and Purcell for four months. Members of both communities gathered on the James C. Nance bridge to celebrate its re-opening Friday afternoon.
Once the ribbon was cut, city officials and community members revved their engines, eager to cross the newly-repaired bridge for the first time.
Rusty Canoy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lexington, opened the ribbon-cutting ceremony with a prayer and thanks to those who have contributed to bridge repairs through funds, labor and community support.
The heat of the mid-day sun did not deter community members from gathering for a much anticipated day. After crossing the bridge, the public gathered at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Purcell.
“What a moment in time this is for the cities of Lexington and Purcell,” Governor Mary Fallin said as she spoke to community members. “The people of these great communities came together as an Oklahoma family in a time that was difficult. But here we are today, driving across the re-opened bridge, bringing these communities back together.”
ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said the decision to close the bridge on Jan. 31 was both the easiest and hardest one yet.
“It was easy because we knew it wasn’t safe,” Patterson said. “It was difficult because we understood we were severing a community.”
The detour between the two towns, less than one mile apart, turned a ten-minute bridge crossing into a 45 minute commute. Community members were re-routed through Noble and Norman to get across the South Canadian River and into Lexington or Purcell.
Carrying an average of 10,000 vehicles daily, the Lexington-Purcell bridge was described by city officials as a life-line between the two communities.