PURCELL — Manhattan Road & Bridge Co., of Muskogee, embarked on a frantic race against time Friday after being awarded an unusual state contract that calls for the company to be rewarded or punished at rates as high as $2,500 an hour depending on how quickly it can repair the Purcell-Lexington bridge and get it back in service.
The clock began ticking at 5 p.m. Friday.
Manhattan's winning base bid was $10,806,620 — more than double the engineer's estimate of about $5.1 million.
PBX Corp., of Sapulpa, submitted a much lower bid that was just slightly over the engineer's estimate, but it was thrown out because of what appeared to be a mistake in listing the dollar amounts of incentives on blanks that were supposed to list hours for targeted completion times.
Manhattan stands to earn bonuses or incur financial penalties at the rate of $2,500 an hour, depending on the extent to which it beats or goes over a target deadline of 45 days for completing initial repairs that will enable the bridge to reopen to car and pickup traffic.
Additionally, the company stands to make or lose incentive money at the rate of $1,500 an hour, depending on how much it beats or goes beyond a subsequent target deadline of 120 days for completing repairs necessary to reopen the bridge to all kinds of traffic, including trucks and heavy emergency vehicles.
When the bridge reopens to passenger car traffic, police officers will be stationed on each side of the bridge to make sure heavier vehicles don't try to cross until the more extensive repairs are completed, transportation officials said.
There are no financial allowances in the contract for delays caused by weather or other factors.
Six Oklahoma transportation commissioners voted unanimously to award the contract Friday afternoon during an emergency meeting.
State transportation officials ordered the James C. Nance Bridge between Purcell and Lexington closed Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered that created a danger of collapse on the U.S. 77/State Highway 39 bridge.
The bridge's closure has created a huge inconvenience for residents of the two communities, transforming two-mile trips into 40-mile commutes. About 2,200 people live in Lexington, while Purcell has about 6,000 residents.
Todd Saxton, executive vice president for Manhattan Road & Bridge Co., said meeting the target deadlines will be a challenge, with the 45-day target the more difficult of the two.
“We are optimistic if everything goes well,” Saxton said. “It's going to be tough.”
Saxton said meeting the targets has “not so much to do with the issue of manpower and the number of crews we put on this job” as it does “the schedule of the fabricator.”
“We would love to pay the bonus on the project,” state Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said.
Bridge inspectors identified 264 weakened areas on the bridge that will need repairs, said Casey Shell, chief engineer for the department.
Metal splints or sleeves will have to be manufactured to reinforce each of those locations, he said.
“We don't get to go down to Walmart to pick these up,” said Mike Patterson, executive director of the Oklahoma Transportation Department. “Those are going to have to be manufactured, machined to very precise … calibrations.”
“The public should not (initially) expect to see a flurry of activity underneath the bridge. The flurry of activity is going to be in the manufacturing and the fabrication,” he said.
Two state lawmakers appeared at the Transportation Commission meeting Friday and stressed the importance of the bridge to the communities.
“This has really been a trial for the human spirit on both sides of the bridge the last couple of weeks,” said state Sen. Corey Brooks, R-Washington. “We've got significant economic impacts involved with the closure of this bridge. This is basically one community separated by a river utilizing this bridge to make their lives happen. You've got parents separated from kids during the day with day care. You've got ailing elder relatives who are dependent on the younger generation to get them their medicines on a daily basis.”
State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, who lives in Lexington, noted that many correctional officers live on the Purcell side of the bridge and now must drive a long way to get the prison on the Lexington side.
Both lawmakers praised transportation officials for their prompt actions.
Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency, and a shuttle service was set up to help residents commute between the communities while the bridge is closed.
Lexington City Manager Charlie McCown said about 15 to 20 cars are parked at the pickup and drop-off site at First Baptist Church every day, indicating people are taking advantage of the free shuttle service.
“I've been really pleased with it. I even have some city employees who use it. You know, it saves money. If you're on a fixed income and all of the sudden you're faced with $40 or $50 more in gas money, that's hard. So, I think the shuttle is really helping people,” McCown said.
In Purcell, City Manager Dale Bunn said about 30 to 40 people are riding the shuttle to work every day. To help out, he said, the city has put up a temporary shelter at the pickup and drop-off site. The city also offers free shuttle service from the site to job sites to help people get to work.
“If we see the need and think people want it, we will re-evaluate and add even more service if need be,” Bunn said.
The shuttle runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with pickup and drop-off sites at 605 Green Ave. in Purcell and at the First Baptist Church at 900 E Broadway in Lexington.
Contributing: Staff Writer Jane Glenn Cannon