LEXINGTON — Gov. Mary Fallin has scheduled a 12:45 p.m. news conference Friday to discuss extraordinary measures that will be taken to expedite the repair and reopening of the bridge between Purcell and Lexington.
Details were still being worked out late Thursday, but some expedited efforts are already in progress.
State transportation officials declared an emergency, which will enable them to shorten the design and bidding process from months to days, said Terri Angier, transportation department spokeswoman.
“We certainly understand the crisis and inconvenience this has created for the two communities and we are doing everything we possibly can to try to resolve this problem,” Angier said.
Modjeski and Masters, the premier national expert on this complex type of bridge design, was brought in from Pennsylvania and is expected to have a draft repair design done by late Friday or Monday, Angier said. The final design is expected to be completed on Wednesday.
Until that design is done, it will be impossible to accurately estimate the time and cost of repairs, Angier said.
Financial incentives are likely to be offered to encourage contractors to work long hours and complete the project as quickly as possible, she said.
Fallin plans to tour the bridge with local officials before holding her news conference at the Lexington Fire Department.
The Oklahoma Transportation Department ordered the 76-year-old bridge closed on Jan. 31 after finding 22 cracks in the beams of the truss system that created a risk of collapse in the bridge that spans the Canadian River.
Its closure has created a huge inconvenience and economic impact on residents of Purcell and Lexington who are used to taking a short jaunt between the towns over the James C. Nance Bridge on U.S. 77/State Highway 39, but must now take a two-hour journey.
Oklahoma has been faced with similar crises in the past, like when a barge caused an Interstate 40 bridge to collapse in 2002 near Webbers Falls, killing 14 people.
Workers were able to get that bridge repaired and back in service within about two months of the accident, but that doesn't mean the Lexington-Purcell bridge can be repaired that fast.
Even though the Lexington-Purcell bridge hasn't collapsed like the Webbers Falls bridge, it's design is much more complex and is actually similar to the Minnesota I-35W Bridge that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145.
Only a small section of the Webbers Falls bridge, less than 500 feet, had to be replaced, but the entire 3,800 foot Lexington-Purcell bridge is at risk because of its design, she said.