LEXINGTON — About 300 people crowded into the Lexington Fire Station on Tuesday night to express their frustrations to state officials about the closing of the U.S. 77/State Highway 39 bridge that links Lexington and Purcell.
The Oklahoma Transportation Department closed the James C. Nance Bridge on Friday after an inspection revealed 22 cracks in the beams of the truss system that holds the 76-year-old bridge over the Canadian River.
The closure means motorists who can normally make the round trip between Lexington and Purcell in 30 minutes now must drive two hours using the quickest alternate route.
Frustrations boiled over at Tuesday's meeting as those most affected by the closure sought answers that Transportation Department officials couldn't always give.
“This has a profound effect on us,” Lexington School Superintendent Denny Price said. “We have students who can't get to class and teachers who are finding it difficult to get to work.”
Becky Deaton, who works at Delta Community Action, which serves hot meals to senior citizens, said she worries that Lexington's elderly residents won't be able to get their meals.
“What are they supposed to do?” she said. “What am I supposed to do? I live literally two miles from my job, but now it takes 40 minutes to get there.”
Paul Rachel, a division engineer with the Transportation Department, said officials know how devastating the closure is to both Lexington and Purcell.
“This is not a bridge to nowhere,” he said. “This is a bridge that connects two communities, and when it is out of service, we realize how devastating it is.”