Final cost for Purcell-Lexington bridge repair: $20.4 million

For people who live south of the metro, ODOT says the nightmare is almost over. Monday ODOT Director Mike Patterson reports the troubled James Nance Bridge between Lexington and Purcell should be up and running on June 14, ending a 5-month detour that adds 45 minutes to a mile-long trip. Purcell is called "the Heart of Oklahoma," and that bridge is a major artery. "It's been really tough, really tough," said Tyler's Furniture owner Mike Phillips in Purcell.He says the bridge closure has cut his business by a third."We've been here 33 years and this has probably been the slowest 5-month stretch of business that we've ever encountered," he said.On Monday transportation commissioners approved the final plan"We're almost at the finish line," said Patterson.They're rushing to meet the deadline despite setbacks like uncovering an extra 96 cracks in the bridge in March, upping the initial cost by $5 million.The final dollar amount approved was $20.4 million, including $3 million in incentives for the contractor to finish ahead of schedule. "Twenty million is a lot of money but we do have a pretty robust budget and were able to handle it, get things moved around, get our budget changed and we'll move on," said commissioner David Burrage, who voted to approve the plans.Phillips can't wait to get customers from across the river back through his door and help pump life back into the sister communities cut off from each other for months. "I think it oughta be a celebration," he said, "I think we all oughta meet in the middle!"When the bridge first opens, fully-loaded tractor-trailers will not be allowed. ODOT says it will put the bridge through more inspections before it allows heavier loads.ODOT plans to work with highway patrol to police the bridge with 24-hour surveillance to make sure only approved vehicles use that route. The 1930s bridge will still have to be replaced in about a decade, when the proper environmental studies can help engineers design a new bridge. But Patterson said the costly repairs were non-negotiable for people who live in the area."They could not wait for a new bridge to be built," he said.ODOT estimates a replacement bridge will cost more than $40 million.