Bridge closing brings state of emergency call by the governor.
Governor Mary Fallin has declared a State of Emergency in Cleveland and McClain Counties due to the closure of the James C. Nance Memorial Bridge separating the cities of Lexington and Purcell. The bridge was closed last week after numerous cracks were found in its supports.
Lexington and Purcell are less than two miles apart. Since the bridge closure, commuters living in one town but working in another have been forced to take detours of roughly 40 miles, dramatically increasing commute times and fuel expenses. Safety concerns have also arisen as ambulances are being forced to take the same detours.
Fallin toured the bridge with local officials today, telling Purcell and Lexington residents that “help is on the way.”
“This bridge is a safety hazard and is at risk of collapse,” said Fallin. “Keeping it open would have threatened lives. It had to close. Unfortunately, that has created an economic hardship, not to mention a severe inconvenience, for the people of Lexington and Purcell.
“This is a challenging time, but these communities are not going-it-alone. We are making every resource available to lighten the burden this has caused for local residents. We are working hard not only to dramatically shorten the timeline for the repair of this bridge, but to put in place interim plans to help these communities while work is being finished.”
The State of Emergency makes monetary reimbursements available to Cleveland and McClain counties as well as Lexington and Purcell. Each entity can receive up to $100,000 of state dollars to reimburse expenses incurred due to the bridge closure. Bus services and ambulance services are both expenses that qualify for reimbursement.
Additionally, ODOT is partnering with transit agencies and funding shuttles between Lexington and Purcell with multiple runs throughout the day. The shuttle service has already begun.
The agency is also dramatically speeding up their bidding and construction process. As one example, a normal bidding process that often takes about 160 days before a project is let to contract will take about 3-4 days under this emergency process.
“A bridge rehabilitation project like this usually takes over a year to complete,” said ODOT Director Michael Patterson. “Governor Fallin has made it very clear, the people in this community can’t wait that long. She has instructed us to speed that up by three times. We are doing everything we can to speed this process up and finish this project in a matter of months.”