An 82-year-old historic bridge in Natural Dam will be demolished if no one comes forward to take ownership.
A new steel beam bridge on Arkansas 59 replacing the old truss bridge over Lee Creek in Natural Dam opened for traffic on Dec. 4. The old bridge was scheduled to be dismantled and reassembled as a centerpiece at Chaffee Crossing.
Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority reversed its decision to take the bridge and turn it into a walkway in the Chaffee Crossing historic district, said Jason Hughey, District 4 construction engineer with the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
Since the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority changed its mind about the bridge, the DOT advertised the bridge again to be donated, but there were no takers, Hughey said.
Hughey called the development “disappointing.”
“No one showed any interest in taking the bridge this second time, so if everything goes the way it is approved right now, it will just be demolished,” Hughey said.
The old Lee Creek bridge was designed by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and built by M.E. Gillioz Company of Monett, Mo., according to the state. The 587-foot-long bridge was completed in 1934.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, and is one of three remaining Pennsylvania through-truss bridges in Arkansas.
Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap also regrets that the historic bridge will not remain intact, he said. He knows many Natural Dam residents are disappointed and want the county to keep the bridge in place as a walkway, he said.
Gilstrap noted that the state will give old bridges to the counties where they are located, but the county must take on the liability, maintenance and any necessary storage costs, he said. That’s something Crawford County could not afford, he said.
“For me, the liability is even more of a problem than the maintenance costs,” Gilstrap said. “This would be a responsibility of the county for many more years past my time as county judge, and I just couldn’t see us doing that.”
Dismantlement of the historic bridge was part of a $6,475,000 contract between the DOT and Pace Construction Company LLC of St. Louis. The contract was awarded in August 2016.
DOT representatives are now working to renegotiate the contract with Pace to have the bridge demolished instead, Hughey said.
As part of the DOT contract, Pace completed the new Lee Creek Bridge and two smaller bridges, one just north of Lee Creek Bridge and the other about a mile north, all on Arkansas 59.
The new Lee Creek Bridge is 602 feet and 2 inches long, Hughey said. Both of the smaller bridges were replaced with reinforced concrete box culverts, and there were accompanying road improvements, he said.
“We also have two 12-foot lanes with 8-foot shoulders in these areas, which is an improvement of what was there previously,” Hughey said.
A ribbon cutting for the new Lee Creek Bridge is expected to be held after the first of the year.