Drivers fearful of Black River Bridge relieved by recent constru - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Drivers fearful of Black River Bridge relieved by recent construction

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BLACK ROCK, AR (KAIT) – Some local drivers have feared that a bridge collapse like the one in Washington State this week could happen closer to home.

People have been particularly fearful of the aging Black River Bridge that connects Black Rock and Portia on U.S. 63 in Lawrence County.

"I think that it's in bad shape," said Aubrey Wilson of Cherokee Village.

Wilson and others have found some comfort recently seeing the crews that have begun working on a new bridge to span the river.

"It [the bridge] is in terrible shape," Kimberly Simpson of Black Rock said. "It needs to be replaced, but it needs to be done quickly."

The construction project officially got started in March 2013, but planning has been underway for several years now. Crews have since made some progress, as they try to replace the narrow, aging bridge that the reform group Transportation for America has labeled ‘structurally deficient.'

"Every time I cross it, I'm nervous when I start on it, most especially if I meet a big truck," Phillip Huskey of Tuckerman said. "I think, is this the day it's going to go in on us?"

The new bridge will be built alongside the current structure to the west. It will be 75 feet wide with four lanes, a striped median and shoulders.

"The people that live here all the time are just thrilled to death because their life's in their hands when they're crossing that old one," Huskey said.

The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department has yet to project when the new bridge will be completed, but AHTD has given the contractor 300 working days to move traffic from the old bridge to the new one.

The vague timeline has raised concerns for Simpson, whose family wonders what kind of headaches the construction might cause.

"They dread the traffic and having to wait," she said, "but they're looking forward at the same time to the new bridge being built."

Once the new bridge is built, AHTD has given the contractor 75 working days to demolish the old structure.

The project in total is expected to cost more than $39 million.

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