The James C. Nance Bridge on state Highway 39 over the South Canadian River between Purcell and Lexington was closed indefinitely around 11 a.m. Friday.
All traffic, both vehicles and pedestrians, is being turned away by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on both the east and west ends of the bridge.
According to State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, two bridge inspectors from Pittsburgh, Pa., were summoned to the bridge Friday morning.
The bridge was initially limited to vehicles weighing five tons or less January 21. That load limit was increased to 16 tons a few hours later.
McClain County Emergency Management Director Ed Cravens has been in contact with ODOT officials and reports there is no word as to when the bridge will reopen.
“There is a crack in one of the supports,” Cravens told The Purcell Register just after 1 p.m.
“A truss and a support beam were not safe for travel,” Cravens was told by ODOT officials.
There are two alternate routes to drive from McClain County to Cleveland County or vice versa.
Motorists can travel north on Interstate 35 to Norman and then go east on state Highway 9 to state Highway 77 south to Lexington.
Motorists can also travel south on I-35 to state Highway 59. Then travel east to U.S. 177 to state Highway 9 and go west to Norman.
A rumor circulating at one of Lexington’s two prisons that the bridge had completely collapsed is untrue.
The bridge closing is indefinite.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the bridge must remain closed until cracking in beams on the truss system found January 20 can be stopped.
The closure comes on the recommendation of ODOT structural engineers and consultants with 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.
The bridge was built in 1938 and carries nearly 9,000 vehicles a day.
According to ODOT, once the cracking is stopped, the bridge will be reassessed and a decision made on whether the bridge can reopen to regular passenger vehicles.
No heavy trucks and school buses would be allowed to cross the bridge until it is fully repaired.