PURCELL — Residents of Lexington and Purcell may have to wait longer than expected before the bridge between the towns is reopened, state officials said Thursday.
Contractors have discovered new cracks in the U.S. 77/State Highway 29 bridge that could make it difficult for them the get the bridge open on schedule, state Transportation Department Spokesman Larry Clore said.
The bridge was closed Jan. 31 after 10 cracks were discovered in the bridge’s structure. It is a major inconvenience for those who live in Lexington and Purcell, as the closest detour between the two neighboring towns, which are just two miles apart, is a 40-mile drive.
State Transportation Department officials had hoped to reopen the bridge to car and pickup traffic 45 days after the start of work. But the discovery of nearly 30 more cracks during repairs will make that deadline more difficult to achieve.
“What was 10 cracks is now 37,” Clore said. “That estimation of when it can be reopened might be lengthened now.”
Clore said the newly found cracks could have formed in already weakened areas or might have shown up because of recent freezing temperatures.
The cracks originally formed because of the use of a manganese alloy that is not typically used on bridges in Oklahoma. Clore said previous contractors making repairs to the bridge did not know of the alloy and then used the wrong materials and welds.
Clore said although the 45-day deadline might not be met, the contractors are still on track to finish all repairs on the bridge within 120 days of beginning work in early February.
Purcell City Treasurer Shauna Long said though the economic impact of the closing cannot yet be determined, travel between the towns has undoubtedly slowed.
Long said residents have been frustrated by the closing but are becoming more accustomed to the inconvenience.
“People have come to the realization that it’s closed, and it’s going to be closed until they open it again,” she said.
A shuttle provided by the state Transportation Department has eased traveling difficulties somewhat but what used to be a short drive takes at least 30 minutes now, Long said.
Once construction is completed, it will remain in use for another 10 years. Ultimately, a new bridge is planned.