Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
Oklahoma Department of Transportation engineers have closed the U.S. 77/S.H. 39 bridge over the South Canadian River between Purcell and Lexington due to safety reasons based upon cracking found during inspections. The bridge originally was load posted on Jan. 20.
Northbound U.S. 77 and eastbound S.H. 39 traffic should use I-35 to eastbound S.H. 9, then south on U.S. 77. Westbound S.H. 39 should use U.S. 77 north to westbound S.H. 9, then south on I-35, ODOT advised Friday. Message boards are in place further south on I-35 so drivers can locate an alternate route if necessary, the state agency said in a news release.
The bridge must remain closed until the cracking can be stopped following recommendations from ODOT’s structural engineers and consultants Modjeski and Masters, national bridge experts. The experts were consulted to further inspect the bridge due to the specialized materials used on the bridge and its fracture critical design, ODOT stated.
Once the cracking is stopped, the bridge will be reassessed to whether it can be reopened to regular passenger vehicles. However, no heavy trucks or school buses will be allowed to use the bridge until it is fully repaired, the agency stated.
The department is working with local communities and emergency management on ideas to help ease the inconveniences of this emergency closure.
During a routine inspection on Jan. 20, engineers found cracks in beams on the truss system underneath the bridge that ultimately lead to Friday’s closing of the bridge.
The James C. Nance Memorial Bridge over the South Canadian River was built in 1938 and carries nearly 9,000 vehicles a day.