The Oklahoma Transportation Commission awarded a $36 million contract to
replace the weight-restricted, 80-year-old James C. Nance Bridge between Purcell and Lexington.
The state Department of Transportation said the contractor will complete a first-phase new structure in about one year, which will be alongside the existing bridge and will ultimately be half of the new structure.
Once it is ready, ODOT said, all traffic will be moved over and "the old bridge will then be removed to make room for the second half of the new bridge. This will allow the bridge, which carries more than 10,000 vehicles per day, to remain open during all stages of the two-year construction. The new bridge will also have a sidewalk for pedestrian traffic."
The department had closed the metal bridge for more than four months in 2014 after finding several cracks during a final inspection of recently completed rehabilitation work.
It said that with the help of national experts, "engineers discovered that the original construction contractors had exercised an option to use a rare manganese alloy instead of steel when building the bridge in 1938. This unique metal is not found in any other bridges in the state and is prone to cracking when welded."
While closed for emergency repairs, drivers traveling between the two cities had to take a 45-minute detour. And since the bridge reopened in June 2014 with a weight posting, ODOT has inspected it frequently.
ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said: "This bridge is a lifeline between two cities that are part of one community. We thank the people of Purcell and Lexington for their patience in 2014 and are so excited that this day has already come."
The bridge also had historic significance, ODOT said, so it held a public comment period while planning the project and consulted with preservation groups.
"The design of the new bridge incorporates aesthetic elements of the historic structure, including reuse of some of the original railing on top of the bridge," ODOT said. "Educational displays with information on the structure's history will also be erected at each end of the bridge for the public to view."
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