FULTON COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - Work has begun on a new bridge connecting Sharp County to Fulton County, a bridge that many in the community believe is a lifesaver.
Crews have been out clearing some trees and preparing the area near the Humphrey’s Ford Bridge for its replacement. For James Tubbs and William Smith, volunteer firemen at the 9 Mile Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, it’s something they’ve been waiting on for years.
“I didn’t think it was coming,” Tubbs said. “Since 2007 they’ve talked about it, then it was last year, the year before, and then finally... they finally started doing the bids.”
The fire department is exactly 10 minutes away from the Humphrey’s Ford Bridge, a bridge they’ve had problems with.
“The bridge will not withstand the weight of our trucks fully loaded with water,” Smith said.
It’s not just the fire trucks that have issues at times. When the Spring River rises, the bridge is impassable, either due to flooding or due to debris.
“No one up here knows if that bridge is flooded until you drive all the way down that rough road,” Tubbs said. “Just to have to turn around and go all the way around just to get into Hardy.”
The alternative? Taking the long way around Cherokee Village, but that can be costly, especially in the case of an emergency.
“That adds about another half hour driving time,” Smith said. “So if you’ve got a structure fire, by the time one of us gets to the other, it’s gone.”
The bridge also presents problems on the Sharp County side. Hardy Officer and Fulton County Deputy Scott Rose has responded to many accidents related to the bridge.
He says it’s a safety issue.
“We experience a little bit of everything from there as far as accidents, ATV accidents, a lot of ATV traffic,” Rose said. “It’s not only an inconvenience but it’s also a safety issue, we can’t get around there, we can’t get over that bridge.”
People on both sides of the bridge say they’re happy change is coming.
“It’s been a long time coming and I know people are really excited,” Rose said. “I know it’s going to be time-consuming to get it built but it’ll be a blessing for the people on that side and for everybody as a whole.”
Region 8 News also spoke with Fulton County Judge Gary Clayton about the logistics of the project.
Clayton said once the area is cleared, crews will begin construction in early June. The contract is for 300 working days, which would put the estimated completion date of the bridge in mid-2022.
The bridge will be nearly 600 feet long and 20-25 feet wide, running at an angle to Hardy starting from the east end of Humphrey’s Ford Bridge.
The project will cost around $3.5 million.