Plan approved for new White River Bridge at Newport - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Plan approved for new White River Bridge at Newport

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NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Work will begin very soon to replace the historic Blue Bridge that spans the White River in Newport.

The Arkansas State Highway & Transportation Department approved a bid to construct a new White River Bridge on Arkansas Highway 367, according to a news release. The project will reconstruct a one-mile stretch of Highway 367 from the curve north of the bridge to Third Street in Newport.

AHTD awarded the contract worth $31,361,489.76 to Tanner Construction Company, Inc., of Ellisville, Mississippi, to complete the project.

Lyndal Waits, an AHTD district engineer, expects crews to finish building the new four-lane bridge adjacent to the current structure by early 2017. He says that project should begin within six weeks, but some of this preliminary construction will likely go unnoticed for a while.

"Not much will affect the traveling public because they [the crews] will be doing work on the ground getting ready for the bridge," Waits said. "It'll probably be another year at least before some of the roadway-type work will begin.

"All in all," he added, "it has a 375 work days, which gives them three more years to construct the project."

Waits says the design of the new bridge may not be as architecturally interesting as the current one, but it will provide some significant benefits particularly to local industry.

"It'll be a wonderful improvement for most notably the industry in the area because they are not traveling on a weight-restricted bridge anymore, and also wider loads can come through," Waits said. "The height restriction is not quite an issue, but nonetheless you won't have an overhead truss to that. So, there might be other types of routing equipment through that area just simply because it might be closer in their scheme of how they get where they need to go."

Once the new bridge opens, Newport city officials would like to turn the Blue Bridge, a local landmark, into a walking trail for pedestrians. The town's economic development director, however, says cost is still the biggest concern.

"Right now, the highway department has told us they'll give us $1,077,000 for the project," Jon Chadwell, director of the Newport Economic Development Commission, said, "so that's a significant amount of money but it just depends on how that money relates to the cost of rehabilitating a bridge."

Chadwell says the city would like to now hire an engineer or architect to develop a cost estimate for the walking trail project first proposed by a group of students from the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock. The problem, though, is that any engineering work will cost money, too, which will likely cost about $100,000. Chadwell says the city simply does not have that kind of money to spend offhand.

"We've written a couple of grants trying to find some engineering and architecture work, and they can look at it and get an idea of how much it would cost," Chadwell said. "And then we'll know is the money that the highway department's giving enough or will we have to seek more and is it even feasible?"

He expects the city to find out whether it's received those grants to proceed with planning after the New Year.

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