CLEVELAND COUNTY, Oklahoma - The James C. Nance Bridge, which connects Purcell and Lexington, has been closed Friday afternoon due to safety reasons.

During a routine inspection on Monday, January 20, ODOT engineers say they found cracks in beams on the truss system underneath the bridge. Due to this damage, on Tuesday, January 21, ODOT had to drop the weight limit to travel across the bridge to 16 tons.

However, authorities decided to shut down the bridge on Friday due to safety reasons. 

Northbound US-77 and eastbound SH-39 traffic should use I-35 to eastbound SH-9, then south on US-77. Westbound SH-39 should use US-77 north to westbound SH-9, then south on I-35, according to ODOT officials.

Message boards are in place further south on I-35, so drivers can locate an alternate route if necessary.

Authorities say the bridge must remain closed until the cracking can be stopped following recommendations from ODOT's structural engineers and consultants Modjeski and Masters, national bridge experts. The experts were consulted to further inspect the bridge due to the specialized materials used on the bridge and its fracture critical design.

Once the cracking is stopped, the bridge will be reassessed to whether it can be reopened to regular passenger vehicles.

However, authorities say no heavy trucks or school buses will be allowed to use the bridge until it is fully repaired.

The department is working with local communities and emergency management on ideas to help ease the inconveniences of the emergency closure.

The James C. Nance Memorial Bridge over the South Canadian River was built in 1938 and carries nearly 9,000 vehicles a day.