Officials announced plans Monday for a bridge on Pevehouse Road to reduce the potential for serious injury, even fatalities, when Lou Emma stream floods.
Crawford County and Van Buren joined forces to obtain a $701,250 hazard mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replace the low-water bridge over Pevehouse Road.
The local 25 percent share to be split between the county and the City of Van Buren will be $233,750 for a 120-foot open span bridge.
County Judge John Hall said the steel beam bridge will be a six-month project and must be completed by Jan. 4, 2016.
Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman stressed the bridge work will not begin until the Rena Road widening project is completed.
"This is another cooperative effort as the city and county continues to improve our road system," Freeman said.
It will be the fourth joint venture to build a bridge. Others have been the 40th Street bridge, Richmond Road bridge and Flat Rock Road bridge.
Freeman noted the Pevehouse Road bridge also will help alleviate traffic congestition on Arkansas 59.
Dennis Gilstrap, director of the Crawford County Department of Emergency Management, pointed out FEMA mitigation grant funds are usually earmarked from safe rooms and removal of homes from areas prone to flooding.
"It took a lot of work and coordination to meet the FEMA requirements on this project," he said. "We had to show a safer bridge might save lives."
Gilstrap recalled several swift-water rescues at the Pevehouse Road bridge and a firefighter who almost lost a foot and was off work for six months.
When the water is too high for crossing, Gilstrap said firefighters at a station one-quarter mile away have to travel more than four miles to get to the other side of the creek.
"Three or four minutes is a lot of time when someone is having a heart attack or their house is on fire," Gilstrap said.