PURCELL, Okla. – Relief is in the near future for folks living in Purcell and Lexington.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has signed an emergency contract to repair the bridge that connects the two towns within 45 days.
Walking around road block signs, Donnita Thornburg hit her limit with the detour.
Suddenly, her three-minute drive to her daughter in Lexington turned into 45 minutes when the state closed the bridge.
“That’s a blood vein for the people in Lexington,” said Thornburg. “You take that away and it hurts.”
In Lexington, there are no doctor’s offices; there are no grocery stores.
People usually travel to Purcell for errands and work.
However, the detour quickly emptied wallets.
Thornburg said, “There are people having to figure in a good $100 extra a week to buy gas to drive.”
Now, Manhattan Road and Bridge plans to heal the lifeline in record time.
“It’s doable,” said division manager Rich Horrocks. “Everything has got to go just right, all the way from the manufacturing process to ODOT and their involvement.”
The construction company needs to fix 264 spots on the bridge.
All repairs will take place underneath the bridge.
In fact, you won’t see a single worker on top of the roadway.
They’ll be installing new steel beams to reinforce the 1930′s steel that finally failed.
“It didn’t get that bad overnight,” said Thornburg. “So, I feel there were lives put in danger.”
Inspectors check the bridge yearly.
In January, the state closed it to semis, then to cars.
Now, even the weight of a person could cause a collapse.
Still, Dennis Martin was so tired of the detour on Monday, he was ready to take a chance.
Martin said, “I’m going to see how far I can walk.”
Fortunately, our reporter was able to talk him out of the journey.
For 30 years, he’s driven across the bridge.
“It just drives me nutty,” laughed Martin. “What else can I say?”
A feeling Thornburg understands every time she turns the key to her car.
However, in a matter of weeks, they hope to leave it all in the dust.
Thornburg said, “Of course, it’s not tomorrow. We want it done yesterday but in the long run, that’s a lot better than four to five months out.”
To the taxpayers, the fix will cost more than $10 million.
The construction company has 45 days to have the bridge safe enough for cars and pickups to pass.
In 120 days, it should have the bridge open to semis as well.
The contractor stands to earn up to $2,500-per-hour for beating the deadline for reopening the bridge to car traffic and $1,500-per-hour for reopening it to all traffic.
The contractor will be penalized in the same amounts for finishing late.