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April 23, 2014

Transportation officials find more cracks in Lexington-Purcell bridge, but repairs on track

NORMAN — State transportation officials announced Tuesday that additional repairs are needed in at least 96 places on the Lexington-Purcell bridge before it can be opened.

However, the highway bridge over the Canadian River is still scheduled to open June 14.

“I know this news is not welcomed by anyone, but the department remains steadfast and determined to get this bridge open safely and as quickly as possible for the people of Purcell and Lexington,” state transportation Executive Director Mike Patterson said.

About 10 days ago, engineers discovered two more cracks that prompted the need to slate the additional 96 areas for repair.

“Although I regret that there is additional work to be completed on the bridge, I’m glad that we found the problem and are going to be able to fix it (rather than sit) without endangering the safety of drivers and still within the same timeline,” ODOT’s Chief Engineer Casey Shell said.

Bridge repairs expected to cost about $15 million are expected to increase an additional $1.5 million for the latest repairs.

The bridge was initially closed Jan. 31 following inspections that revealed several cracks. On Valentine’s Day, work began to repair the bridge. The June 14 date to open the bridge falls on Flag Day, which was designated for the United States in 1777.

When the bridge was built, welded manganese steel was used, which is where cracks have occurred continuously to the bridge.

Patterson noted that repairs to these bridges are being done to avoid what occurred on Interstate 35 in Minneapolis. In 2007, the eight-lane I-35 bridge collapsed.

The director lauded both Manhattan Road and Bridge Co. and Sherwood Construction, which were hired to repair the Oklahoma bridge.

Patterson said it is expected to take three to five years to satisfy environmental concerns before a new bridge could be installed.

The director said every effort is being made to cut down on the time needed to fulfill environmental requirements.

Patterson said repairing the bridge so it can be opened to Lexington-Purcell residents is the top priority of the transportation department.

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