State rep there for bridge opening

State Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, speaks to those in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the U.S. 77/State Highway 39 Purcell-Lexington bridge. Former legislator Lisa Billy (left) was also there for the recent event. (Courtesy photo)

State Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, was among those helping to cut the ribbon to officially open the brand new U.S. Highway 77/State Highway 39 Purcell-Lexington bridge.

Conley’s House District 20, which includes parts of eastern Garvin County, encompasses the community of Lexington and borders Purcell.

She was invited to take part in the July 26 event hosted by the Heart of Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT).

“This is a huge relief for the people who live in these two cities,” Conley said.

“They lived through having the bridge closed for safety reasons and then having construction for several years.

“Now they can celebrate a new, wider, modern bridge. I’m thankful to ODOT for prioritizing this project for our area and for working so hard to get this accomplished.”

This bridge, which spans the Canadian River and the BNSF railroad connects Purcell and Lexington. It is now fully open for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians over the Canadian River and the BNSF railroad.

Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, was unable to attend the event due to work obligations. Her House District 42 includes the city of Purcell and most of Garvin County.

“It is such a blessing to finally have this project completed,” Roe said.

“Nearly 10,000 people use this road every day to go about their daily lives, and I’m glad the bridge has been updated to safety and convenience standards so that Oklahomans have access to infrastructure that works for them.

“I was disappointed I was not able to attend the opening, but I appreciate the work that ODOT has done over the last several years, and I look forward to utilizing this updated route.”

The $38 million four-lane bridge replaces an 80-year-old structurally deficient two-lane bridge that was closed for several months in 2014 after ODOT found cracks in areas of the bridge beams.

The department accelerated the necessary replacement project to begin in only about three years from that reopening, significantly expediting a process that normally would take a decade to complete.

This two-year project included adding shoulders and a bicycle/pedestrian path as well as incorporating elements of the historic bridge structure known as the James C. Nance Memorial Bridge.

While the bridge is fully opened to traffic, the contractor will continue to complete remaining small items and tasks through August that potentially could necessitate intermittent lane closures.

Also attending last week's event were Lexington Mayor David Adams; Purcell Mayor James “Ted” Cox; Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz; former legislator. Lisa Billy, who is now Oklahoma Secretary of Native American Affairs; and former House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who now serves as a commissioner for the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s District 3 in east central Oklahoma.

Former Purcell Mayor Ron Fishburn, who attended the previous bridge opening in 1938 at the age of five, spoke about the history of the bridge and its significance to the communities of Purcell and Lexington.

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