James C. Nance Bridge Reopens in Purcell

The US-77/SH-39 bridge joining communities of Lexington and Purcell reopened, Friday afternoon, after being closed for emergency repairs since January 31.

"Overcoming this challenge and reopening this bridge is an example of what Oklahomans can accomplish when we work together," Gov. Mary Fallin said. "The patience and resolve of the people of Purcell and Lexington, through this ordeal, has been truly amazing, and this day belongs to them."

In her emergency declaration, the governor called for the safe reopening of the bridge as quickly as possible. Both Gov. Fallin and ODOT remained concerned about the impact of the closure on the community and expedited the project. Even with the additional problems, the bridge was reopened in less than five months, a process that would have normally taken a year.

"This was an unprecedented challenge in ODOT's history and one that has tested us all," ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. "Through a great team effort between the local community, construction contractors, engineering consultants, transit operators and ODOT employees, the bridge is safe and we are happy to reopen this vital transportation link."

While the bridge is now open to regular passenger car traffic, the weight limit on trucks will remain restricted to 15 tons until ODOT has been able to evaluate the performance of the repairs under car traffic in the next two months. Work under and around the bridge will also continue for several weeks, but will not affect traffic.

The closure included a detour that turned what had been a quick 10 minute drive into a 45 minute trek on the interstate through Norman. To help ease the burden of the long commute, ODOT provided a free shuttle service, with nearly 11,000 riders traveling between Purcell and Lexington. The shuttle's final departures from Purcell and Lexington are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Friday night.

"We've looked forward to this day for a long time and our businesses are very excited to welcome all of their customers back," says Justina Reaves, Executive Director of The Heart of Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce.

The bridge was closed after ODOT found 11 cracks in areas of the bridge beams associated with welds made on an unusual type of manganese steel during a nearly-completed project. A contract for emergency bridge repairs was expedited and awarded on Feb. 14, and included unprecedented time-based financial incentives and disincentives. While initially hopeful of a quick repair process, ODOT was unable to open the bridge early, as the number of cracks grew to more than 100.

The contractor, Manhattan Road and Bridge Co., working with Sherwood Construction, repaired more than 1,000 weakened areas with brackets, tension rods and repair plates at a cost of more than $20 million from ODOT's contingency fund.

The bridge was built in 1938 and carries about 10,000 vehicles a day. Construction of a new bridge has been expedited by ODOT to within the next five years.