High­way of­fi­cials post­pone open­ing Broad­way Bridge

Rain de­layed project, state agency says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - NOEL OMAN

The state’s top high­way of­fi­cial says the new Broad­way Bridge won’t open to traf­fic this week af­ter all.

The Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment an­nounced Wed­nes­day the bridge over the Arkansas River be­tween Lit­tle Rock and North Lit­tle Rock likely would be com­pleted to the point traf­fic would be al­lowed to cross it this week.

But the agency held out the pos­si­bil­ity un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances could al­ter that sched­ule, which is why Scott Ben­nett said traf­fic won’t be al­lowed to cross the bridge un­til next week at the ear­li­est.

“We are hop­ing that … it will prob­a­bly be the early part of next week,” Ben­nett, the di­rec­tor of the Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment, said Mon­day. “Orig­i­nally we were think­ing the lat­ter part of this week. The rain has put us be­hind a lit­tle bit.”

Ben­nett spoke at an im­promptu news con­fer­ence Mon­day in the mid­dle of the bridge over the Arkansas River amid the on­go­ing con­struc­tion as­so­ci­ated with the $98.6 mil­lion project.

The con­trac­tor, Mass­man Con­struc­tion of Kansas City, Mo., is rac­ing against a 180day clock ex­pir­ing March 29 in which it had to close the

old bridge to traf­fic, re­move it, build the new one and open it to traf­fic.

“You can see it is not quite fin­ished yet,” Ben­nett said. “They have to fin­ish a lit­tle work on the pave­ment. They have to stripe it. We don’t re­ally want to paint stripes on the pave­ment when it’s wet. It won’t stick. We will get this open as ab­so­lutely as soon as pos­si­ble.”

One tarp- cov­ered sec­tion of the south ap­proach to the bridge had con­crete

re-poured and will need sev­eral days to cure, high­way of­fi­cials said.

Ben­nett didn’t fore­see any de­lays be­yond next week, which will be about three weeks be­fore the 180- day dead­line. The de­tours now di­rect­ing traf­fic around the bridge will re­main in place un­til that time.

“I do feel very con­fi­dent in say­ing it’s go­ing to be in less than six months,” he said.

The Lit­tle Rock area has seen some pe­ri­ods of rain in the past few days. More rain is forecast for to­day and Wed­nes­day.

The con­tract in­cluded a clause to dock Mass­man $80,000 for ev­ery day it went past that 180 days, and in­cen­tives of $80,000 for ev­ery day it opened ahead of sched­ule. While there is a 50-day cap on pay­ments for fin­ish­ing early, there’s no cap on a po­ten­tial penalty.

The $80,000 is what the depart­ment cal­cu­lated as the daily road-user costs for the project. Road-user costs are the es­ti­mated fi­nan­cial im­pact the project will have on mo­torists. The fig­ure is based on a for­mula tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion traf­fic vol­ume, de­lays and other fac­tors.

Be­fore it closed in Septem­ber, the bridge car­ried about 25,000 ve­hi­cles daily.

The old bridge was com­pleted in 1923 for just un­der $1 mil­lion. The depart­ment be­gan plan­ning to re­place the bridge about eight years ago, con­clud­ing that although it re­mained safe for traf­fic, the cost to main­tain the bridge as it con­tin­ued to age would out­weigh the cost to re­place it. The High­way Depart­ment orig­i­nally pro­posed a Broad­way Bridge de­sign sim­i­lar to the Main Street Bridge, but lo­cal lead­ers per­suaded the depart­ment to in­cor­po­rate two bas­ket-han­dle arches into the de­sign. Pu­laski County com­mit­ted $20 mil­lion to cover the ex­tra cost. Lead­ers say the bas­ket-han­dle span will be­come a dis­tinc­tive land­mark in the re­gion.

“Mass­man Con­struc­tion has done a great job,” Ben­nett said. “Our crews have done a great job in mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing is re­ally ready to go. As you can see, it is go­ing to be a great ad­di­tion to Lit­tle Rock, North Lit­tle Rock and Pu­laski County.”

Ben­nett re­it­er­ated even af­ter the bridge opens to traf­fic, work on the struc­ture won’t be com­pleted for sev­eral more weeks.

Ve­hi­cles will be able to cross the river north and south, but more work is needed to com­plete the south­bound off- ramp that will carry traf­fic to west­bound LaHarpe Boule­vard, also called Arkansas 10.

It’s also ex­pected to take sev­eral weeks for Mass­man work­ers to com­plete ramps on both sides of the river to con­nect the 16-foot share­duse path with the Arkansas River Trail for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists.

An­nounce­ments on those as­pects of the project will be made as the work pro­gresses, the depart­ment said.

Also, af­ter the bridge opens to traf­fic, mo­torists can ex­pect oc­ca­sional lane clos­ings on the span as the con­trac­tor wraps up parts of the project. The lane clos­ings will be on week­ends and at non- peak morn­ing and af­ter­noon com­mute times, the depart­ment said.

Ben­nett was on the bridge as part of a cer­e­mo­nial first drive across to bring at­ten­tion to the project’s sta­tus, which was a re­peat of a sim­i­lar oc­ca­sion when the orig­i­nal bridge was built, he said.

Ben­nett, driv­ing his sta­te­owned sports util­ity ve­hi­cle, led a small con­voy that in­cluded Dick Tram­mel of Rogers, chair­man of the Arkansas High­way Com­mis­sion; three of the four other com­mis­sion mem­bers — Tom Schueck of Lit­tle Rock, Robert S. Moore Jr. of Arkansas City and Alec Farmer of Jones­boro — Mayors Mark Stodola of Lit­tle Rock and Joe Smith of North Lit­tle Rock and three Pu­laski County jus­tices of the peace — Donna Massey and Judy Green, both of Lit­tle Rock, and Phil Stow­ers of Maumelle.

“Smooth, it was re­ally smooth,” Stodola said of the first drive across the bridge.

The bridge will be com­mis­sioned at 4 p.m. April 6 in the west park­ing lot across from Dickey-Stephens Park in North Lit­tle Rock. The pub­lic is in­vited to par­tic­i­pate.

“We are hop­ing that … it will prob­a­bly be the early part of next week. Orig­i­nally we were think­ing the lat­ter part of this week. The rain has put us be­hind a lit­tle bit.”

— Scott Ben­nett, the di­rec­tor of the Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL

Lit­tle Rock Mayor Mark Stodola (left) talks with Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Scott Ben­nett Mon­day dur­ing a cer­e­mony on the Broad­way Bridge for the cer­e­mo­nial first cross­ing of the bridge. The bridge will open to ve­hi­cle traf­fic some­time next week.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.