Lexington bridge contractor will still get bonus, even if bridge stays closed

Workers install parts for repairs under the James Nance bridge. (ODOT photo)

The bad news keeps coming for the Purcell and Lexington communities. The damaged James Nance bridge, slated to re-open in March, will now likely re-open in June instead.

Construction workers have been busy underneath the bridge over the Canadian River. The goal: get the bridge back open as soon as possible. The contractor gets $2500 an hour for every hour the project is done early.

For Lexington residents like Susan Tarp, this bridge is about more than money.

"My 4.9 mile commute is now 45-53 minutes, depending on traffic," she said.

Tarp works for the First American Bank on the other side of the bridge, in Purcell.

She knows first-hand the problems the bridge's closure is causing. She helped open a temporary branch on the Lexington side to help keep people from having to make a 45-minute trip to the bank.

"We didn't know the time frame, so it's kind of a moving target, because we first thought, OK, we'll see if we need a location, ok we need to get a location, now, we're really glad we got a location because we didn't realize it was going to be this long," Tarp said.

The department of transportation says a March deadline of opening the bridge to light traffic is no longer an option after more cracks were found on the bridge. They say the extreme cold accelerated the problem, and there's too much to fix to open that soon.

"Extremely unusual circumstances to an unusual bridge but obviously many lessons learned," ODOT spokesperson Terri Angier said.

Fox25 obtained cost records for the bridge's repair. Over the last ten years, the state spent over $5 million to repair the bridge, money that ODOT admits, paid for work that ultimately crippled the structure.

"We feel very bad about this, we know the whole thing was caused by the fact that we did a repair project on this, trying to extend the life to this bridge," Angier said.

Now they're having to extend the closure, already going on two months.

"I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel for the end of March, and that got kicked in the knees," Tarp said.

ODOT says the contractor will still get the $2500 an hour bonus, even if the bridge doesn't re-open on time. ODOT says they made the decision to keep the bridge closed, so contractually, they'll still have to pay the bonus.