Help available for residents in Purcell, Lexington after bridge outage

Gov. Mary Fallin tours the James Nance bridge in Lexington after it closed last week. (Photo: Governor Mary Fallin's office)

The state will offer some relief to people in Purcell and Lexington after the James Nance bridge that connects the two cities was closed last week.

Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for Cleveland and McClain counties on Friday. At least $100,000 would be made available for bus and ambulance services who are now paying to house employees on the Lexington side of the bridge due to the closure.

The mile-long bridge over the Canadian River serves as a critical link. What is normally a 2-mile trip is now 35-miles, adding time and fuel to every trip.

Fallin went to the bridge today to look at the damage. Her executive order will speed up the bidding process from 160 days to 3-4 days.

Engineers say cracks ranging from 1" to 7" were found on 9" beams, severely crippling the structure. The bridge was built in 1938 and is the same type as the bridge that collapsed in 2007 in Minnesota.

Final plans for repair are expected in by Wednesday, February 12, according to ODOT. Construction on the bridge repairs could begin as soon as mid-February.

ODOT is subsidizing a shuttle service to get people back and forth from either side (click here for schedule).

ODOT says the bridge fix will likely take months, while a permanent solution, a new bridge, will take $40 million dollars and several years.

Plans for the project should be back to ODOT by Friday, and then will go out for bid. The state will pay the contractor $2,500 an hour for every hour they finish ahead of schedule.

The state plans on opening the bridge for passenger traffic some time before the final repairs are complete, but it will remain closed for heavy vehicles. Fallin said Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers will man the bridge 24 hours a day to ensure over-weight vehicles don't drive over, further damaging the bridge.

Inspectors originally found the problem Jan. 21, but only weight-limited traffic. When they got a better look, they found the extensive cracking and shut the bridge down.