Bridge closure causing hardship for some, forcing others to take dangerous detour

LEXINGTON, Okla. – Two Oklahoma towns are dealing with a hardship after the bridge connecting the areas was recently deemed unsafe by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

However, the detour some motorists are choosing to take seems questionable.

The detour ODOT has approved takes travelers north out of the Purcell or Lexington area to Hwy 9 in Norman and then back down either I-35 or Hwy 77.

Those who live south of Purcell say that detour takes too long, so they are taking another route, one which involves traveling along a one lane bridge.

Samantha Robb said, “I think it’s irresponsible that that [bridge] is the only access.”

The bridge closure is a hot topic in both towns.

ODOT says the bridge was closed after an inspection revealed there were 22 cracks, compromising the integrity of the bridge.bridge crack

Casey Shell, ODOT’s chief engineer, said, “The bridge has cracks in critical members of the bridge.”

While most are driving through Norman and back down, it’s not a detour they’re happy about taking.

William Weldon, a Purcell resident, said, “We’re having to make adjustments just to afford the fuel to drive to Norman every day.”

For William and his wife Janet, it’s also an extra hour each way to get to work.

Weldon said, “It’s something we couldn’t plan for.”

Samanatha lives south of Purcell but works in Lexington.

She’s one of many drivers who have come up with their own detour.

She travels west along Hwy 59, then north at Byars, crossing a one lane bridge.

She said, “By one lane, I mean if someone is coming my direction, you have to stop before you can get to the other direction and it’s been nice and icy.”

Weldon said, “That bridge is older than this bridge. It’s over 100-years-old. How long will it survive with the increase in traffic?”

Another 20 miles beyond the bridge and drivers can access Lexington from Hwy 39.

Samantha said, “It’s a little harrowing. Some of those turns are a little scary.”

Those in town are worried, not just about the drive, but about what this will do to the local economy.

ODOT officials say they are working on a plan.

Shell said, “We are doing all we can at this time to get the bridge repaired and back open to traffic as soon as possible.”

In 2004, the bridge was repaired for $2.4 million and painting and pavement sealing was completed in 2005 for $978,000.

In 2012, extensive repair work was completed for $1.2 million.

There is a Lexington City Council meeting Tuesday evening at the city hall.

ODOT says an official will be there to discuss some of the issues regarding the bridge.

That meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.