Sharing memories

Ron Fishburn’s recollection of the 1938 opening of the James C. Nance Memorial Bridge drew chuckles from Tim Gatz, secretary of Transportation and executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Fishburn, a former Purcell mayor, was among the speakers Friday at the opening of the new Purcell-Lexington bridge.

ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz opened and closed the half hour ceremony that ended with a ribbon cutting and a salute from the OU Ruf/Neks to officially open the new James C. Nance bridge across the Canadian River between Purcell and Lexington last Friday morning.

The new four-lane super bridge also features a protected walk or bicycle path that has railing from the original bridge constructed in 1938.

Gatz, who is the Secretary of Transportation as well as ODOT’s Executive Director, welcomed the large gathering of citizens from both communities and introduced the eight people who made brief remarks during the event in the middle of the bridge between the two towns.

A bridge to prosperity

Transportation Commissioner T.W. Shannon congratulates the people of Purcell and Lexington for the new bridge that connects the two communities.

Former Purcell Mayor Ron Fishburn, who was five years old in 1938 for the opening of the original bridge, now has witnessed the opening of two spans over the river.

He spoke along with Secretary of Native American Affairs Lisa J. Billy, Transportation Commissioner TW Shannon, Purcell Mayor Ted Cox, Lexington Mayor David Adams, State Senators Paul Scott and Mary Boren and State Rep. Sherrie Conley, all of whom made brief remarks.

Scott read a senate proclamation and Gatz brought the celebration to a close with his final comments about the bridge and the entire project.

A great day for Purcell

Purcell Mayor Ted Cox acknowledged the importance of the new Purcell-Lexington bridge during his comments to the crowd gathered Friday for the span’s official opening.

“To have accelerated this major infrastructure project in only three years and completed construction in less than two years is a major engineering, planning and construction accomplishment,” Gatz said.

The speakers all said this day was a day to celebrate the quick and professional work of not only ODOT on the project but the construction project manager Webber Construction and all the workers that had a hand in completing the construction ahead of schedule.

What next?

David Adams, Lexington mayor, said the day the state closed the James C. Nance Memorial Bridge in 2014, the question on everyone’s lips was “What next?” Adams spoke during Friday’s ribbon cutting on the new $38 million span.

Cox said the project, “was not without sacrifices by both communities” but said Lexington and Purcell have a “great partnership.”

Adams thanked the Webber construction workers.

“They were out there in the hottest of days and the coldest of days,” Adams said. “This is one community. We depend on one another.”

Proclaiming the day

Sen. Paul Scott read a proclamation Friday before the ribbon cutting on the new Purcell-Lexington bridge.

The bridge was closed in 2014 after welding on the manganese material made the bridge almost in danger of collapsing under its own weight.

For four months area residents had to make the 45-minute commute around through Norman to get from one town to the other.

Wadley’s EMS set up a satellite station in Lexington. Banks did the same thing. Businesses  suffered.

“It was a terrible ordeal but we weathered the storm,” Conley said. “It’s amazing that ODOT got the job done so quickly and so beautifully.

Construction kudos

Sen. Mary Boren thanked the bridge construction workers for their long hours in all kinds of weather to bridge the divide between Purcell and Lexington with a new span which officially opened on Friday.

“What would normally take 10 years was accomplished in five. It’s amazing,” she said.

Purcell police, fire and city employees had golf carts to transport citizens to the middle of the bridge for the ceremony and back after the event came to a close.

Shannon called the day “a momentous occasion”.

“Kudos and accolades to the people of this community and ODOT,” Shannon continued. “The bridge is a connecting and uniting addition that is something the entire state can be proud of. The bridge connects the communities and the commerce they generate. Congratulations.

Representative views

Rep. Sherrie Conley was among speakers at Friday’s ribbon cutting of the Purcell-Lexington bridge.

“Oklahoma has replaced more structurally deficient bridges in the past 10 years than any state in the nation,” Shannon confirmed.

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