PURCELL, Okla. – What used to be a two-mile trip between small towns will continue to be a 35-mile commute much longer than residents nearby had hoped.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says more cracks have been discovered in a bridge that links the towns of Purcell and Lexington.
Traffic that normally travels across the U.S. 77/Hwy 29 bridge is now being rerouted to Hwy 9 in Norman, a 35 mile and 43 minute journey.
The bridge was closed Jan. 31 after cracks were discovered.
Since that time, ODOT officials say hundreds of other cracks have been discovered in a lower beam that supports the bridge.
Experts say the problem lies with the manganese steel used on portions of the bridge, which is not holding up after decades of use.
ODOT says that manganese steel was not properly documented in the 1950’s, so the cracks have caught them by surprise.
Cara’s Sweet Café in Purcell estimates they have lost 25 percent of their normal business that comes from Lexington every day.
In the meantime, ODOT is offering transit services eight times a day between Lexington and Purcell.
Officials hope the bridge will be open to cars in late March or early April.
However, due to the additional cracks that have been discovered, the bridge won’t be able to support all vehicles until early June.