A new bridge over Foster Branch on Old Uniontown Road is officially open to traffic.

Crawford County and Hawkins-Weir Engineers Inc. hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the bridge between Pine Hollow Road and Richmond Road in Van Buren.

The bridge had been closed since Feb. 27 when it was closed for reconstruction due to safety and flooding issues, according to Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap. The bridge was opened to traffic May 19.

Hawkins-Weir Engineers President Brett Peters said the original bridge was too narrow.

“It had received several impacts, vehicular accidents, at this location, so the purpose of the project being public safety, we widened the bridge,” Peters said. “We also increased the amount of surface area, or storm water, that this bridge could handle underneath. It’ll handle the 10-year storm event now.”

“It was a real narrow bridge and there had been lots of accidents on it,” Gilstrap said. “Two cars could barely pass on it.”

Gilstrap said emergency vehicles were too wide to cross the old bridge if there was oncoming traffic, which could cause a delay in response times.

“Rural firefighters frequently told me in the past they would have to stop to let traffic through before they could cross it because of how narrow it was,” the county judge said.

“One thing I’d like to do is to thank the people that live in the area that were inconvenienced through the construction time, and I appreciate their patience with us, and we feel like in the future, it’ll make it much safer and expedite their travels as they go back and forth,” Gilstrap said.

Peters, who was the project engineer, said the contractor was Kraus Construction Co. LLC out of Fort Smith. Kraus Construction not only ended up finishing the project ahead of schedule, but also under budget. The project’s bid price was $247,560, but it was completed for $237,351.35, according to Peters.

Gilstrap said $75,000 of the cost came from the state mitigation program, which is a 50-50 grant through the state up to a $150,000 project. The county paid the remaining cost.