EFFORTS by Oklahoma transportation officials to repair a bridge that links Lexington and Purcell experienced another setback this week.
Contractors working to repair the James C. Nance Bridge noticed more cracks in the bridge’s structure in areas where they didn’t expect to see damage, Casey Shell, chief engineer for the state Transportation Department, said Tuesday.
Although the new cracks could cost as much as $1.5 million to fix, Shell said he doesn’t expect that will delay the project’s June 14 completion date.
Transportation officials closed the bridge in January after an inspection revealed 22 cracks in the beams of the 76-year-old bridge’s truss system. The bridge carries U.S. 77 and State Highway 39 across the Canadian River, providing the only convenient link between Lexington and Purcell.
Transportation Department officials acknowledged that the department created the problem when it hired a contractor to weld brackets and install tension rods onto the bridge. Rather than strengthening the bridge, the work created 264 weak points along the structure that are vulnerable to cracking.
Some of the truss beams on the bridge were made from a manganese alloy steel, which becomes brittle and subject to cracking when welded. John Kulicki, an engineer with Pennsylvania-based contractor Modjeski and Masters, said the material has fallen out of favor since the time the bridge was built because it’s difficult to use.
Despite the setbacks, Kulicki said he expected the firm would be able to make the bridge safe for use.
“When we’re done, the bridge will be every bit as functional as it was before,” he said.
Transportation officials have identified 96 areas on the bridge that need repairs. Officials don’t expect to find more cracks elsewhere in the bridge because there are no other areas that include welded manganese steel, they said.
Transportation Department Director Mike Patterson said officials hope to reopen the bridge for use while a new replacement bridge is built. A timeline for the replacement has not been set, but it is expected to be many years in the future.