More problems with Lexington/Purcell bridge, won't open on schedule

Signs block the James Nance Bridge from traffic. (Fox25 photo/Keaton Fox)

More cracking on the James Nance Bridge over the Canadian River, connecting Purcell and Lexington, will delay the re-opening of the bridge into June, according to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

The bridge closed February 3, after major cracking was found on the bridge supports. ODOT said the bridge could collapse under its own weight.

Monday, engineers said they'd found even more cracking on the bridge, which would delay the repair even more.

"We have not seen a pattern of the cracks slowing down or stopping and we cannot, in good conscience, let even light vehicles on the bridge without the fear of more cracks causing a possible collapse," ODOT Chief Engineer Casey Shell said in a statement.

When repairs began, there were 10 areas with serious cracking. Now, there are 41 locations with cracks, and that number is expected to go up, according to ODOT.

Residents in Purcell and Lexington are used to a 2-minute trip across the bridge. With the bridge out, that trip is now 45 minutes.

The planned repairs were expected to allow light traffic back on the bridge by the end of March.

The weather is partially to blame, ODOT said.

ODOT engineers say its own repairs are to blame for the problem, after workers welded on parts of the bridge that weren't conducive to welding.

The bridge is considered "fracture critical", meaning the bridge has no redundancy and if one part of the bridge fails, the whole mile-long bridge could collapse.