BLACK ROCK, AR (KAIT) - For several months, we have been telling you about the issues the State Highway Department and truck drivers are facing with the Highway 63 Black Rock Bridge.
Earlier this year, the weight limits were cut in half forcing rock laden trucks to divert around the bridge through Pocahontas. This cost customers more in fuel charges as well as time for deliveries.
Roma Aaron has 7 trucks in her fleet. 6 semi's and a tri-axle. Today there were 4 sitting idle in Black Rock. I visited with Aaron at her dispatch office. "We're going to Paragould and Jonesboro both today, but they're not a whole lot. It's just a small contracts doing driveways and stuff like that. Normally" she says, "We would be covered up this time of year with the good weather, hauling both crushed rock and lime for field use."
There are 3 quarries to the North of the Black Rock bridge. Any fully laden truck has to go North to go South.
Since fully laden rock trucks can't go over the bridge as well as heavily loaded semi's, they have to find an alternate route. That's generally taking 62 East through Pocahontas from Imboden.
Aaron says since it costs more now to get rock from the local quarries many of the rock customers are getting stone from a quarry near Cord. "What needs to be done." Aaron says "Is fix the old bridge or build a new one."
Aaron says she's not sure her company can survive the wait. She used to have a lot of independent contractors work for her.
Aaron, "Lot of independents. So what they are mostly doing now is working for Delta or Atlas the ones that got the big jobs." Those companies are drawing mainly from the Cord quarry.
Along side the old bridge you can see surveyors stakes. Aaron says the last plan she heard of is to build the new bridge right next to the old one.
Aaron, "It's gonna be a four lane or a five lane, they call it a five lane with it all together with just a small meridian."
Tuesday afternoon, a public meeting was held in Black Rock to discuss the future of the bridge and to show plans for the proposed new bridge on highway 63.
Aaron says the state highway department informed them that 10 years ago the bridge was approaching a 50% load scale.
Aaron, "I don't like the state too well. Why didn't they start working on this back then when they found out it was used half up?"
Aaron says right now her company and others in the area and the independents and even the quarries are in survival mode waiting on the bridge.
Aaron, "It will be 2013 before they're gonna do it, now that's before they bid it, before they get it out there."
It is expected to take 5 to 6 years to complete the bridge once the project gets underway.