Oklahoma farmers say new weight limitations on a repaired bridge that links Lexington and Purcell makes it unusable for hauling their goods.
The James C. Nance Memorial Bridge was closed on Jan. 31 after state officials discovered the truss system was cracked and needed emergency repairs. The bridge reopened in June after more than $20 million in repairs.
But state Department of Transportation officials imposed new weight restrictions because of concerns about the bridge's structural integrity. It had a standard 40-ton weight limit, but a sign posted now puts the weight limit at 36 tons.
The Oklahoman’s Graham Lee Brewer reports that won't accommodate the trucks farmers use. Jerry Moffat, who produces wheat and corn, says a trip that used to be 36 miles round trip now takes more than 100 miles.
Casey Shell, chief engineer for the Transportation Department, said the plan was to get the bridge back to full capacity, but additional damage was discovered during the repair process that made that plan unfeasible.
It was in the best interest of public safety to lower the weight limit, Shell said.
He compared the state of the bridge to an old wheat truck.
“It’s old and it’s tired, and it’s had a problem,” he said. “So, they may have to put a transmission in the old truck and they do. But, when they go back to using it with the new transmission, it still has an old engine, it’s got bad breaks (sic), it’s got all the other problems, but they got enough good back in it to put it back into use. You can’t afford, and we couldn’t afford on this bridge, to go fix everything that’s wrong with it.”
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