PORTIA, AR (KAIT) - The rise and fall of the Black River has alternately kept part of Highway 63 outside Portia open and closed all day long.
Early Tuesday morning rising waters restricted traffic on the highway. Highway 10 District Construction Engineer Brad Smithee said they were keeping it open. Smithee, "Our status today is to get whatever we can back open. If the water continues to recede I do believe we will be able to maintain 2 lanes of traffic."
The only lanes open were on the new construction the present lanes were water and debris covered. Smithee, "We are currently running one lane traffic with flagmen and a pilot vehicle running back and forth with traffic."
The good news was that about midmorning the water appeared to be receding slightly. Even though there is still water covering about half of the present highway, around 11 o'clock highway crews were out busily cleaning up debris.
Smithee, "We're trying to get that debris out of the way, hopefully it continues to recede and then allowing us to have two lanes maintained for this afternoon." About two thirty the lane on the East side opened up allowing 2 lane traffic flow.
There is still a lot of water running under the new bridge as the flood waters funnel down the river channel. Eventually it will go away and after that there will be a lot of work that has to be redone on the new section of highway. If you step off the black top and look under the new layer there is a washout that reaches under the black top for about a foot.
Smithee, "We've lost the shoulder for probably a mile and 4 tenths. The entire amount of gravel is gone."
Smithee says they have also lost about three to four feet of asphalt which will have to be trimmed back and redone. None of the gravel is reusable for roadbed but may be hauled off for other projects and the gravel the railroad has used has washed into the medium on the old highway. Smithee says the loss may go as high as a million to replace.
Smithee says keeping the road open all depends on what the river does.
"If the water begins to rise again we may be ultimately be facing something entirely different."