Purcell, Lexington residents celebrate as new bridge connecting two towns opens

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MCCLAIN CO., Okla. - Friday was a huge day for residents of Purcell and Lexington.

Back in 2014, the bridge between the two towns closed, making a typically five to ten-minute drive 45 minutes long.

Since then, residents have dealt with years of construction, but now crews with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has formally opened all lanes of a new bridge.

Officials say five years of headaches ended with the cut of a ribbon.

The first James C. Nance bridge connecting Purcell and Lexington was built in 1938. It was deemed unsafe in 2014 and closed for several months, leaving drivers with a 45-minute detour.

In the five years leading up to this moment, residents have driven on a patched up version of the old bridge, seen its demolition and driven in a select few lanes of the new one. Now, there's a sigh of relief with all lanes open.

"America is great," said former Purcell Mayor Ron Fishburn, who attended the first bridge's opening in 1938. "Purcell is great."

If you're not from McClain County, you may be wondering why there was so much celebration for a bridge. Well, those who live there say being without it was far more difficult than you can imagine.

"Businesses had to move from Lexington to Purcell to keep their businesses open," said Mitzi Combs, who lives in Lexington.

While the bridge was closed. her mother in Purcell was battling cancer.

"So every day I would go by and make sure she had all the food and medicine that she needed, and then I would go back to Lexington and I worked in downtown Oklahoma City," Combs said.

Without the bridge, she, like many others, had a long commute from Oklahoma City to Purcell, then up through Norman just to get back home. That's why Combs made sure a future generation was there to witness the opening of the bridge.

This bridge opening was nothing to sneeze at and neither was the first one back in 1938.

"They had a western band set up under a canopy at that end of the bridge," said Faye Dodds, who attended the first bridge's opening.

ODOT says a project like this typically takes a decade of planning, design and construction. They fast-tracked this one, getting it done in half the time.

"These guys are out here in the hottest of the hot days, coldest of the cold days to make this work," said Lexington Mayor David Adams.

"We are one community and not just two," said Purcell Mayor Ted Cox. "We share a lot more things than just a telephone prefix with Lexington."

The project cost $38 million.

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