Newport Mayor: Blue Bridge Recreational Trail "dead in the water - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Newport Mayor: Blue Bridge Recreational Trail "dead in the water"

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) -

There have been talks of transforming the historic Blue Bridge in Newport into a recreational trail for years.

Now it seems those plans are out as the project was contingent on a grant the city did not receive.

The Arkansas State Highway Commission recently told Newport Mayor David Stewart that the Blue Bridge was not accepted for a Recreational Trails Program.

"With no financial backing, it's just awfully hard to do something like that," Stewart said.

The grant, coupled with the donation of the bridge and land by the highway department, would have helped satisfy the financial plan.

"We were offered just under a million from the highway department for refurbishment of the bridge," Stewart said. "Without this grant that we've applied for for the remainder of the project amount, we don't have a financial plan and therefore we're kind of dead in the water at this point."

Stewart said he and others will hate to see it go. However, he said they don't really have an option at this point.

"There are those that are very passionate about keeping the bridge and there are those that are passionate about not keeping the bridge," Stewart said. "Some feel like it could be a future financial burden for the city and I totally agree that that's a strong possibility. That's what we have to look at."

Stewart said he feels this is the only feasible option for the city.

"We could beat this around and have the Clinton School folks back up here or have public hearings and then we would still be in the same boat that we are right now," Stewart said. "We've got a responsibility to do something with it and we need to move relatively fast."

The Newport City Council unanimously decided to not accept the donation of the Blue Bridge from the Highway Department.
Construction on the replacement of the Blue Bridge is already underway.

The $31 million project will have four lanes and is expected to be complete in 2017.

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