Traffic is moving on Harrisburg Road overpass

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Traffic is flowing once again on I-555 and the Harrisburg Road overpass in Jonesboro.

But this doesn't mean motorists shouldn't use caution in these areas.

District Engineer with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, District 10 in Northeast Arkansas Brad Smithee said the situation is better, but not finished.

"We were able to open the Highway 1B Harrisburg Road section," Smithee said. "Of the bridge about last night around 11:30. We were able to do that with one lane only in each direction. We've got one lane south and one lane north."

Smithee said the Harrisburg overpass only has two lanes open for safety.

"We've had to do that," Smithee said. "Because of the side of the bridge that had the collision. Still has ongoing work and ongoing issues that we're having to address. So, we needed to place all of our live loading, which is the traffic, over on the other side of the bridge. So, we've got to maintain that for an indefinite period of time. As we progress we might be able to modify that. But last night we were able to lift the bridge back into position and get it supported and get all the live load on the portions that have no damage. So, we've got to maintain that until we make so more significant repairs underneath."

Smithee said motorists need to be patient in these areas while the finish repairing damage to the bridge.

"The Highway 1B traffic is more local traffic," Smithee said. "Folks that are traveling back and forth across north and south Jonesboro. Of course, we wanted this open and it will relieve a lot of areas, but what we really need people to do is what they've been doing in recent days. They've been very patient and found other routes. This is going to be congested down here because this is a bridge that probably carries some 12,000 vehicles per day. With it down to two lanes, that's going to slow things down a little bit. We just need them to continue that patience and be respectful of how the lanes are operated. If they wind up in congestion, they may find an opportunity to dive around a barrel and get over on the wrong side of the bridge. We beg that they do not do that. Be patient and use good common sense. Stay within our limits of our traffic lanes."

Smithee said if motorists begin driving where they aren't supposed to, it's going to cause problems.

"Anytime somebody gets over in the wrong area here," Smithee said. "It's going to cause lots of significant problems. It may slow us down on our progress. It may cause injury to a worker underneath the bridge who has a hand in a wrong spot or something at the wrong time. So, we beg everyone stay within our confinement of our traffic lanes and our channelization devices that we have in place."

Smithee said the operational lanes have been placed where they are for everyone's safety.

"Those barrels are there for the driver's safety," Smithee said. "The fact that we're able to move traffic is exactly what we need to do. If it becomes a problem, we have to be fluid and consider all of our options to keep everybody safe."

Smithee said they will continue working around the clock until work is done.

"Our folks are going to work 24-hour shifts," Smithee said. "As we reach milestones, we may not be able to work through the night, waiting on concrete to cure and things like that. Our folks are working diligently. They're dedicated and they're going to get this thing repaired as rapidly as possible."

Smithee said he is proud of the work they've accomplished in such a short amount of time.

"We were able to re-open traffic down on I-555 around 10:30 last night," Smithee said. "After some 36 hours after the accident. So, that's an amazing feat on behalf of our staff. And a lot of folks. The emergency responders and everyone involved. The cleanup efforts. Everything has been expedited in this job. We've brought in a couple of our heavy bridge crews that live all over the state and that work statewide to immobilize them. They're here doing most of the heavy work. Our local staff here in District 10 is supplementing their work. Doing the work of getting things ready and bringing in equipment and supplies. So, we've really got a large family of people that have come together and are working in unity, diligently and very efficiently. I'm very proud of our people."

Smithee said they don't have an exact time for completion of repairs.

"I'd love to give you an exact time frame," Smithee said. "We're still digging into things that are broken and torn up. We think we know and then something changes. So, it's going to be some weeks. It's not going to be months like I've heard some comments around. We certainly do not anticipate that. We anticipate a few weeks here."

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