State officials said Wednesday they have discovered new cracks in the U.S. 77/State Highway 29 bridge between Lexington and Purcell that will make it difficult for them the get the bridge open on schedule.
The bridge was closed Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered. 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 in 45 days after the start of work, but the discovery of more cracks will make that deadline difficult to achieve, according to a statement released Wednesday.
“When the contract was awarded for emergency repairs to the bridge, there were 10 locations that needed to be addressed before the bridge could open to passenger vehicles,” the release stated. “However, cracks kept appearing during continuous inspections of the bridge and what were 10 areas have now become 37 areas that need attention.”
Officials said the cracks could be newly formed in already weakened areas or might have shown up because of recent freezing temperatures.
The cracks formed because previous road work by the department used the wrong materials and welds. The repair project is expected to cost $10.8 million.
The contractor repairing the bridge is installing brackets that will reinforce the structure. Further complicating work is the manganese steel used on portions of the bridge. Officials said the material is unusual. It is not used on any other bridges in the state.
Confusion over the material used to build the bridge led to the mistakes that caused the cracks.