Cheers For Parks Street Bridge

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

PRAIRIE GROVE — Cheers are prob­a­bly go­ing up by some res­i­dents of Prairie Grove and oth­ers who live west of town.

The Parks Street bridge, closed for con­struc­tion since Oct. 19, 2015, opened to traf­fic Fri­day af­ter­noon. Those who use the bridge will no longer have to take a six-mile de­tour on But­ler Road.

The bridge was se­verely dam­aged by floods in spring 2011 and it has taken al­most five years to re­place the bridge. The bridge re­mained open as a one-lane bridge dur­ing most of that time.

Larry Oel­rich, di­rec­tor of ad­min- is­tra­tive ser­vices and pub­lic works for the city of Prairie Grove, has re­ceived calls and mes­sages al­most daily from peo­ple want­ing to know when the new bridge would open.

He de­scribes the bridge as the Farm­ing­ton by­pass be­cause many peo­ple use Parks Street which be­comes Illinois Chapel Road to travel to Fayet­teville or to I-49 to avoid heavy work traf­fic in the morn­ing on U.S. High­way 62 go­ing through Farm­ing­ton and on into Fayet­teville.

“A lot of peo­ple com­mut­ing pre­fer to drive that way in the morn­ing from 7:30 to 8,” Oel­rich said.

Angie Gill lives on Lee Ann Way, just past the bridge, and has been tak­ing the But­ler Road de­tour about five months. Gill, coun­selor for Prairie Grove Middle School, said the de­tour prob­a­bly adds about 15 min­utes to her com­mute to work and home.

“We take the de­tour ev­ery­where we go,” Gill said. “In the morn­ing, you have traf­fic on it and it is a gravel road and not very wide. When it rains, it washes out.”

She is ready for the new bridge to open.

“I’m so ex­cited for the bridge to open. It’s go­ing to be so nice. With that and the new by­pass, it def­i­nitely will make a dif­fer­ence,” Gill said.

The pro­ject to re­place the bridge has met sev­eral de­lays dur­ing the past five years. Parts of the pro­ject had to be ap­proved by mul­ti­ple agen­cies to con­tinue to the next stage.

In ad­di­tion to the Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment, other agen­cies in­volved in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process for Parks Street bridge in­cluded Bureau of In­dian Affairs, Arkansas His­toric Preser­va­tion Pro­gram, Arkansas Fish and Game Com­mis­sion, Arkansas Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Affairs and Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Though not funny, the ques­tion of when the bridge would be com­pleted has al­most been a run­ning joke for city of­fi­cials.

The State of the City ad­dress given by Mayor Sonny Hud­son each year has in­cluded the com­ment that hope­fully the bridge would be re­placed in the com­ing year.

City of­fi­cials had thought the bridge “def­i­nitely” would be re­placed within two years af­ter it was dam­aged by flood­ing. How­ever, when the two-year mark passed, the city was still wait­ing for plans to be fi­nal­ized and ap­proved by the High­way Depart­ment.

“We started in 2011 with the ap­pli­ca­tion process and it took three years to get ap­proved be­fore we could ad­ver­tise for bids,” Oel­rich said.

The city ap­proved a low bid of $575,236 from Cross­land Heavy Con­struc­tors of Colum­bus, Kan., in Septem­ber 2015, and con­struc­tion started one month later. The pro­ject was about two weeks be­hind sched­ule, mainly due to weather, Oel­rich said.

Hud­son ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for ev­ery­one’s pa­tience dur­ing the long process.

“We’ve done ev­ery­thing we could do as fast as we could do it,” Hud­son said. “We didn’t drag our feet. There was a lot of red tape in the process and we were wait­ing for other folks and other plans to be ap­proved.”

Hud­son said the city had to meet all re­quire­ments from the High­way Depart­ment to make sure it qual­i­fied for the 80 per­cent disas­ter funds ap­proved for the pro­ject. Prairie Grove was re­spon­si­ble for 20 per­cent of the costs.

“We’re ex­cited to get it back open for folks so they can go back to their nor­mal rou­tine,” Hud­son said. “This will be bet­ter for ev­ery­one go­ing through there.”

LYNN KUT­TER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

Parks Street bridge in Prairie Grove opened to two-way traf­fic Fri­day af­ter­noon, though a few de­tails still have to be com­pleted, such as strip­ing, guardrails on the ap­proaches and clean-up. City of­fi­cials plan a brief rib­bon cut­ting when ev­ery­thing is ready.

LYNN KUT­TER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

The new Parks Street bridge was de­signed so that wa­ter would have clear pas­sage un­der­neath it dur­ing heavy rains. The old bridge re­ceived ma­jor dam­age dur­ing spring floods five years ago.

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