Lexington — The discovery of additional potential cracks in the bridge connecting Lexington to Purcell could delay the planned reopening of the span, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation told residents of the two towns Tuesday.
But ODOT head engineer Casey Shell told residents that the bridge could still reopen within the planned 45-day timeframe, depending on how quickly the contractors can make repairs. An emergency contract awarded by the transportation department offers incentives of up to $2,500 per hour for beating the reopening deadline.
The James C. Nance bridge over the Canadian River closed Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered in the bridge’s structural beams. The closure of the span has lengthened commutes for residents of both towns, and the state has worked to expedite the repairs.
Shell said Tuesday that workers have confirmed 11 cracks in the bridge and more than 250 spots that caused some stresses.
“They spent the weekend out here Saturday and Sunday verifying all the dimensions,” Shell said. “They measured and recorded all 264 locations on the bridge that they’re building these apparatuses for.”
The Norman Transcript reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1cpGsw6 ) that officials hope to reopen the bridge by late next month with a 5-ton weight limit in place. The transportation department says the repaired bridge is expected to remain in use for about 10 years. The state hopes to build a new, $40 million bridge over the river after that.
The closed bridge is also affecting emergency response time. Max Punneo of Wadley’s EMS says Lexington responders now face about two-hour transport time with the bridge out. Punneo said Wadley’s is trying to get another ambulance in Lexington, but that they face funding problems.
“We’re working on it, though. They’re crunching the numbers,” Punneo said. “We can call Noble to come down and help if we get in a bind.”