Of­fi­cials ded­i­cate new Alma bridge

Over­pass named for late ed­u­ca­tor who sparked move­ment to cre­ate span

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

ALMA — A new bridge over the Union Pa­cific Rail­road tracks through Alma was ded­i­cated Tues­day, of­fi­cially named for the late Mar­sha Woolly, a lo­cal ed­u­ca­tor and pub­lic ser­vant who sparked the move­ment to cre­ate the span.

“Through her ef­forts and many oth­ers, we have this great over­pass and this great av­enue to get in and out of Alma,” long­time As­sis­tant School Su­per­in­ten­dent Ron­nie New­ton said dur­ing a ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony at the foot of the 485-foot span.

Speak­ing at Tues­day’s cer­e­mony were Lt. Gov. Tim Grif­fin, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of U.S. Sens. John Booz­man and Tom Cot­ton and of U.S. Reps. Steve Wo­mack and Bruce Wester­man. Sev­eral area leg­is­la­tors and lo­cal of­fi­cials were in the au­di­ence of about 50 peo­ple.

Woolly, who died in 2012 at age 62, worked for 36 years in the Alma school sys­tem as a teacher and prin­ci­pal. She served more than 20 years on the Alma City Coun­cil and two terms on the Craw­ford County Quo­rum Court.

New­ton and oth­ers praised Woolly for her

work to en­sure the safety of school­child­ren who crossed the tracks in buses daily. The bridge also will fa­cil­i­tate traf­fic flow in down­town Alma, which came to a halt ev­ery time a train rum­bled through town.

Mayor Keith Greene said the rail­road’s ef­fect on traf­fic has been a fac­tor in the city’s 145-year his­tory.

Woolly’s wid­ower, School Su­per­in­ten­dent David Woolly, said the ef­fort to de­velop the over­pass started about 40 years ago with an ac­ci­dent at a rail­road cross­ing on Fayet­teville Av­enue that killed a fam­ily.

The bridge project, which in­cluded the span and re­lo­cat­ing

Arkansas 162 north to meet U.S. 64, cost $9.6 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment District Engi­neer Chad Adams.

Con­struc­tion be­gan on Dec. 14, 2015, led by pri­mary con­trac­tor Fors­gren Inc. of Fort Smith.

The project was paid for with state and fed­eral funds and lo­cal match­ing money, Adams said. Greene said the city paid about 25 per­cent of the cost and that it took Alma about eight years to set aside enough money to meet its share.

“When you’re a poor city, it takes a long time to save up your part,” he said.

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