The new Arkansas 59 bridge over Lee Creek in Natural Dam was dedicated Friday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The event was hosted by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. Among those to attend were State Rep. Charlene Fite, County Judge Dennis Gilstrap and 100-year-old Thell Ellison of Natural Dam, who remembers all three bridges which have crossed Lee Creek at Natural Dam.
Ellison said the first was a wooden, one-span county bridge which was built before a road.
“It emptied into a field,” he recalled.
The new steel beam bridge replacing the old truss bridge opened for traffic on Dec. 4.
As part of a $6,475,000 DOT contract, Pace Construction Company LLC of St. Louis 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, said Jason Hughey, District 4 construction engineer with the DOT. Both of the smaller bridges were replaced with reinforced concrete box culverts, and there were accompanying road improvements, Hughey said. It has two 12-foot lanes with 8-foot shoulders.
Dismantlement of the 82-year-old historic bridge was part of the contract between the DOT and Pace which was awarded in August 2016. The old bridge was scheduled to be dismantled and reassembled as a centerpiece at Chaffee Crossing.
However, Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority reversed its decision to take the bridge and turn it into a walkway in the Chaffee Crossing historic district, Hughey said.
The old Lee Creek bridge, which was demolished this week, 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 was one of three remaining Pennsylvania through-truss bridges in Arkansas.