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Purcell Businesses Fight To Keep Doors Open, Inspectors Find New Cracks In Bridge

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A spokeswoman said the best-case scenario would be by the end of March, but there is no telling with the changing variables of the bridge. A spokeswoman said the best-case scenario would be by the end of March, but there is no telling with the changing variables of the bridge.
PURCELL, Oklahoma -

Five weeks after ODOT abruptly closed the James C. Nance bridge that connected Lexington and Purcell, businesses fight to stay open. Traffic through Purcell is down sharply after the bridge's closure, and business owners now face the uncertainty of when the bridge will be back open, after inspectors found new cracks in the bridge.

The first business drivers used to see when they crossed the bridge was the Railhead Diner. The diner is still there, and it is still open, but now they find themselves at the end of a 70-mile detour, and business has been down sharply. During the Friday lunch hour, the majority of the seats were empty.

"We've lost anywhere from fifty to eighty percent of our customers," said Courtney Holmes, whose mother owns the diner. "There wouldn't be a seat in the house. We'd have standing room only. I mean we'd have people lining up."

3/6/2014 Related Story: Closed Lexington-Purcell Bridge Causes Loss

Typically, Holmes and her staff would serve 170 people, but less than 50 customers showed up by midday Friday morning. Staff members said they had not seen their regular customers from just over the closed bridge in weeks.

"A lot of them we don't see," explained Holmes. "You might get one or two that had to come over here for a doctor's appointment."

But those are few and far between. Even the Purcell Municipal Hospital reported losses. With 25% of its patients coming from the other side of the bridge, revenue was down in February by $700,000 to $800,000. There is a worry in Purcell that the longer the bridge stays closed, the higher the number of permanently closed businesses will go.

2/14/2014 Related Story: Contract Awarded To Repair Lexington-Purcell Bridge

"We've had to really cut back on what, um, the people we had. Our staff," Holmes said.

ODOT said crews were with two engineering firms, and the contractors working to fix the bridge were doing their best but they have stumbled upon new cracks in the bridge and now the reopening date for the bridge is not a one hundred percent sure thing.

A spokeswoman said the best-case scenario would be by the end of March, but there is no telling with the changing variables of the bridge.

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