96 new problems in Lexington/Purcell bridge

      As work continues on the James Nance Bridge... there are two major problems facing people who live here.

      "The gas and the time," said Mena Hill, who lives in Purcell.

      Hill's daughter goes to school 2 miles away. But the only way to get there is 35 miles one way, a 45 to 60 minute trip.

      "We have to take our girl to the Lexington side to practice t-ball. And that is an hour drive to go all the way around for her to practice t-ball or to play her games," Hill said.

      Workers have finished a major portion of repairs, but now are faced with 96 new cracks that will have to be fixed before the bridge can open. The cracks appeared this week, as repairs on major portions of the bridge were wrapping up.

      That will cost another $1.5 million dollars, thought engineers say they don't think it will cost time, as the contractor is ahead of schedule.

      "We want to accelerate this project as quickly as we can. We don't want to take any additional chances," said chief engineer Casey Schell. "This is a 10-year fix and I'm comfortable with that. But we want to get this bridge replaced as quickly as we can. It's past due."

      But people here are thinking beyond the current bridge, afraid new problems will arise, causing another closure when this project is finished.

      Representative Lisa Billy says a new bridge will happen, but it's about timing, not money. The planning and environmental studies will take 4-6 years, with construction likely taking another two.

      "The funding is available," Billy said." The work is happening. I believe it's going to speed up the process for our communities, Lexington and Purcell to get a new bridge built."

      With every day that goes by, residents like Mena are burning through 5-8 gallons of gas, precious dollars that could be spent elsewhere.

      "I'm not sure how much longer they're going to be able to handle this."