Drivers fearful of Black River Bridge relieved by recent construction

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

People have beenparticularly fearful of the aging Black River Bridge that connects Black Rockand Portia on U.S. 63 in Lawrence County.

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

Wilson and others havefound some comfort recently seeing the crews that have begun working on a newbridge to span the river.

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

The constructionproject officially got started in March 2013, but planning has been underwayfor several years now. Crews have since made some progress, as they try toreplace the narrow, aging bridge that the reform group Transportation forAmerica has labeled 'structurally deficient.'

"Every time I crossit, 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 inon us?"

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

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

The Arkansas StateHighway and Transportation Department has yet to project when the new bridgewill be completed, but AHTD has given the contractor 300 working days to movetraffic from the old bridge to the new one.

The vague timelinehas raised concerns for Simpson, whose family wonders what kind of headachesthe construction might cause.

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

Once the new bridgeis built, AHTD has given the contractor 75 working days to demolish the oldstructure.

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

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