About 150 people braved the 90-degree heat on Tuesday to honor a former Alma educator and civic leader at a ribbon cutting and bridge dedication for the newly constructed section of Arkansas 162.
Officials with the City of Alma and the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department dedicated a section of the new road from Henry Street to Mountain Grove Road in honor of the late Marsha Woolly.
Woolly spent her 36-year career as an Alma School District educator and was an avid civic leader.
She served for a period as mayor and was a member of the Alma City Council for more than 20 years until her death from cancer in September 2012.
Ronnie Newton, a friend, neighbor and former colleague of Woolly, spoke on her dedication to seeing the road completed for the safety of Alma students and the community at large.
“She was always concerned with the safety and well-being of others,” Newton said. “She worked diligently for this goal, and this dream of hers has come about.”
Woolly’s dream of seeing a bridge built over the tracks was about 40 years in the making. It started after an entire family was killed as they attempted to cross the tracks in their vehicle, said Alma School Superintendent David Woolly, who was married to Marsha Woolly.
That’s when the couple and the late Charles Dyer began petitioning the AHTD to bridge the tracks in Alma. Alma school buses cross the tracks about 20,000 times a year, David Woolly said.
“It’s been an accident waiting to happen,” David Woolly said. “And we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve never had an accident of that kind with a school bus. Now we can put that behind us.”
Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin called the $9.5 million road project a prime example of city and state cooperation.
“The fact that parents who have kids on a bud won’t have to worry about the safety concerns that existed before, that’s a very good thing,” Griffin said.
Also in attendance were Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and representatives from the offices of Sen. John Boozman, Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Steve Womack and Rep. Bruce Westerman, and several state legislators.
City officials expect the 0.741-mile stretch of highway and bridges to open to traffic before the first day of school in mid-August, and said it will alleviate some traffic issues in Alma and allow quicker access to downtown.
Marsha and David Woolly’s son, Jared Woolly, and daughter, Kris Woolly Markes, said the highway will be a part of their mother’s enduring legacy.
“Our mom was a big believer in first impressions, but here we see her lasting impression,” Jared Woolly said. “From now on, mom will watch as busloads of kids cross safely over these railroad tracks … and we will watch as generations of people ask, ‘Who is Marsha Woolly?’ And we will answer, ‘Someone who cared about the children and people of Alma, Ark.”