Gov. Mary Fallin announced Wednesday she has asked for federally subsidized loan assistance for businesses in McClain and Cleveland counties that have been financially damaged by the temporary closure of the bridge that links Lexington and Purcell.
Transportation officials closed the bridge over the Canadian River on Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered in its truss structure following a bridge rehabilitation project that went awry.
Repairs to the 76-year-old bridge are underway with a targeted completion date of June 14, the governor said.
In the meantime, businesses are suffering as people who once just drove over the bridge to get between Lexington and Purcell now must take a 45-minute detour.
“The increase in travel time has created an undue financial burden for the residents and small business owners in both counties and communities,” the governor wrote in her letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration. “The magnitude of the bridge closure presents unexpected consequences to these communities that could be difficult to recover from without extended support from the SBA.”
In Lexington, which has 2,150 residents, “the major decline in revenue has led to businesses moving or closing their doors permanently in order to avoid further indebtedness,” the governor wrote.
“To date, multiple businesses are reporting a 30 to 50 percent decline in sales, including the following: Engdhal Motors, Lexington’s Gas-n-Go, Massengale’s Furniture, Pearson’s Lumber and Shan’s Kwik Corner,” the governor stated. “A&B Auto Recyclers reports an 80 percent decline in sales during the past five weeks.”
Fallin said Clark’s Flooring was forced to close in Lexington and move to Purcell because of the bridge closure.
Small business owners also are struggling in Purcell, which has a population of 5,952, Fallin said, adding that the Purcell city manager has reported a $150,000 to $200,000 drop in sales tax revenue since the bridge closed.
“A decline of sales tax revenue of 20 percent to 50 percent was reported by the following Purcell businesses: Cara’s Sweet Cafe, The Railhead Diner, United Drug & Health, Carl’s Jr., and Ace Hardware,” the governor wrote.
Fallin is asking the SBA to issue an economic injury declaration that would allow business owners in McClain and Cleveland counties to apply for federally subsidized loans.