LEXINGTON — With the June 14 anticipated opening quickly approaching, Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials and contractors are busy finishing final repairs on the James C. Nance bridge connecting the highway between Lexington and Purcell.
Since the closing of the bridge in January, members of both communities have keenly awaited its re-opening — the difference between a short commute and a long, detoured trip.
Larry Clore, ODOT public information officer, said continuing cracks during the repair process added to the safety hazards that already existed. An initial count of 11 cracks was recorded in February when the contract was awarded for bridge repairs, but that number grew even after the repairs had begun as cracks were discovered elsewhere along the bridge.
Clore said the unanticipated cracks eliminated the hopes for opening early, but have not yet pushed the date further into the future. The current re-open remains marked for Saturday, June 14.
“The unforseen cracks prolonged the process, but we are glad we were able to catch all of them,” Clore said. “We’re confident it won’t be a danger to the public anymore.”
Both contracted and unexpected repairs have resulted in a total of $20.4 million approved by ODOT to assist in bridge reconstruction costs. Repair work began Feb. 14.
Clore said the goal for these repairs has been to finish the bridge as quickly and thoroughly as they can, to safely re-open it to the public. The current bridge has proved crucial for many members of both communities, dramatically impacting daily commutes and business.
Lexington City Manager Charlie McCown has seen these detrimental blows to community officials first hand. For people who live on one side of the bridge and work on the other, McCown said the detour has been a main concern for him since day one. The extra costs the miles have put on commuting members of the community strained their ability to get around, costing them an extra $40 to $50 in gas per week, McCown said.