SMITHVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the Arkansas State Highway Department began pouring concrete on a bridge along Strawberry River Road in Sharp County Wednesday. According to Sharp County Judge Larry Brown, the bridge is expected to be finished by the end of December. The project, worth an estimated $1.4 million, is being funded partially through stimulus dollars.
Brown said the bridge should help the county with economic development and safety during severe flooding events.
"This project started a long time ago under Frank Arnold, and Frank completed the bridge on Millcreek. That was the first stage in trying to get a connecting road from 354 all the way to Smithville," said Brown. "What we'd like to do is open this up for economic development, so more traffic would come into Ash Flat, also another bypass road and mainly, stop the flooding down here too."
John Bacon, who is inspector over the project, told Region 8 News Wednesday the bridge and approaches should be completed soon. After the bridge is complete, work will begin on another bridge four miles west on the same road.
"We started last July and this is where we're at today, pouring a bridge deck 210 feet long," said Brown.
"It'll be a quicker travel route. This is a pretty good shortcut as far as people going to Ash Flat from Smithville and Black Rock," said Bacon. "We're eventually going to widen more sections of it once we get all structures built."
Brown said once construction is complete, motorists coming from Smithville and surrounding areas will be able to trim roughly 20 minutes off their travel time when heading toward Ash Flat. He said the county is chipping in $38,000 for the first bridge, $17,000 for the second. The second bridge will cost an estimated $675,000.
"There have been times I've been through here and I'd have to back the car or truck up a quarter mile just to find a place to turn around to go back out," said Brown. "Right now, we have to get the bridge structures and the dirt work completed so we can get this thing out of the water so it's safe to travel over and we'll go from there."