Black Rock Bridge Getting Inspection

BLACK ROCK, AR--With the bridge collapse in Minnesota still fresh on people's minds, the state of Arkansas is trying to reassure motorists area bridges are safe for travel.

Black Rock residents Audrey and Debra Meeks make the trip across the Black River regularly and know one lane of traffic is normal.

"It's always being worked on and that's a good thing," said Audrey Meeks.

Monday traffic in one direction was shut down as inspectors from Little Rock were checking the safety of the bridge. Even though the Meeks had to wait to get across the bridge, they didn't mind.

"It makes you real proud that they are out here checking it out because it could be real dangerous," said Meeks.

The bridge in Black Rock is one of six in the state that has a similar design to the one in Minnesota; however according to the highway department that is where the similarities end.

"In the light of what happened in Minnesota we felt it was the prudent and appropriate thing to do and go back to the bridges that are similarly designed and do an inspection to show the public that everything is ok," said Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department District Engineer Joe Barnett.

The state says the inspection process involves looking at sub structures like piers and supports, plus super structures like the trusses, in addition to the roadway itself. For a bridge like Black Rock, it's not a one day process.

"A structure of this size takes quite a while to do an inspection. It's a rather lengthy inspection because it is in depth," said Barnett.

Like 27% of all bridges nationwide, the one in Black Rock is rated as structurally deficient, but Barnett says if the bridge was a hazard, they would close it down.

"Structurally deficient does not mean the bridge is unsafe. It merely means that one of those components the sub structure, the super structure or the deck has been rate below a certain level," said Barnett.

Motorists like the Meeks appreciate the proactive approach the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department is making in light of the tragedy in Minnesota.

"We were talking about how this might get some work done on our bridge," said Meeks.

The crew in Black Rock is one of many out on a daily basis that inspect all state bridges regularly. So, next time you see a crew out slow down and thank them.

One of the factors being mentioned as a reason for the collapse in Minnesota is the heavy traffic. While the Black Rock Bridge stays busy with an average of 11,000 cars crossing it daily the bridge in Minnesota saw more than 140,000 cross daily.