NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - A staple landmark in Newport, could soon be no more. Newport Mayor David Stewart says representatives with the Arkansas Highway Department recently notified city officials about their plans to tear down the White River Bridge, and build a new one.
"It's big. It's blue. It's part of our skyline. It is a part of history," said Newport Mayor David Stewart.
It's what many in town know as the "Big Blue Bridge." The White River Bridge has been around since around the 1930s, and Mayor Stewart says its age is showing. "You know it's just old and not in good shape," said Stewart.
He says the Arkansas Highway Department has done intense maintenance on the structure every year just to keep it up to standards and it's cost a lot of money. "It's been on the list for a while to be considered for a replacement and they're just now being able to do that," said Stewart.
So what do people in the area think about this change? We talked with Dennis Haigwood,a local farmer, who farms land on both sides of the river. He says he welcomes it. "It'll be great for us because technically the bridge is under load limits that everyone's running. Everyday is a headache and we cross it. That bridge is not rated for the kind of weight we carry," said Haigwood.
The way the old bridge is constructed now, Haigwood says many times when he's transporting equipment he has to find alternate routes just to get back and forth across the river. "Folded up in transport, we have equipment that won't cross the bridge. It's too wide, too tall. So we just end up going around it. It will take us an hour to get to Newport with some of our equipment, and we're four miles away," said Haigwood.
And Mayor Stewart says because the structure is so narrow, they have to send police out to block either side of the bridge just so some of the bigger loads can pass. He says constructing a new bridge will take away some of the hassle. "It will have wider lanes and it will accompany wide loads," said Stewart.
But Stewart does want to be able to keep the history of the "Big Blue Bridge" alive. "We hope to salvage of maybe a piece of it to put in one of the parks so people can remember a piece of our history," said Stewart.
Mayor Stewart says they do plan to get input from the community about the construction of the new bridge.