Four months after the James C. Nance Bridge that connects Lexington and Purcell closed, motorists got some good news. According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the bridge should be open on or around June 14.
Crews have been working on the bridge since it was deemed too unsafe to travel across by structural engineers. Cracks formed in areas of the bridge that carry the load. Engineers believed the bridge showed cracking because of the manganese alloy used, which weakened over time.
Since the bridge abruptly closed on February 1, thousands of drivers have had to make a 70-mile round trip detour instead of the usual one mile trip.
Motorists said they were optimistic that the bridge would be opened soon, but many said they would not hold their breath. On the other hand, an ODOT spokeswoman told News 9 the plan is to move these barricades and reopen the bridge. However, big trucks will not be able to cross as police monitor the bridge making sure nothing too heavy tries to cross.
On Main Street Purcell, the owner of Tyler's Furniture said his family business has lost at least a third of his business because of the bridge closure. At least two restaurants in town closed for good. The same could be said in Lexington, where many businesses said they were just trying to hold on, banking on the bridge's reopening.
People, who could not make the long drive through the detour for one reason or another, have been hitching a ride on the shuttle service. ODOT statistics showed more than 10,000 riders have used it.
Structural repairs continue despite several setbacks along the way. These crews are in the final phase of work before light traffic can start going across the bridge.
An ODOT spokeswoman said the only concern right now is waiting on the final delivery of gusset plates to reinforce the bridge.
ODOT has not determined the exact travel restrictions for the bridge. An expert engineering firm will make that recommendation.