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— The Arkansas Highway Commission on Wednesday chose a North Little Rock based engineering firm to design a replacement for the Broadway Bridge over the Arkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The commission gave Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department officials the go-ahead to negotiate a contract with Garver LLC to design the replacement for the nearly 90-yearold bridge.

The department has estimated that the project will cost $45 million in federal bridge-replacement money and state matching funds. Construction, which will require the old bridge to be removed first, is to begin in 2013.

Garver LLC, which has its corporate headquarters in North Little Rock and offices in Fayetteville and HotSprings, and in four other states, has strong ties to projects on or near the Arkansas River.

Company engineers have designed two pedestrian bridges in central Arkansas - the Big Dam Bridge on the Arkansas River and the soon-to-be-completed Two Rivers span over the Little Maumelle River. They also designed the Interstate 440 bridge in central Arkansas.

“Garver has a long history of working on bridges in Arkansas and on the Arkansas River,” said Bert Parker, a Garver vice president and its director of transportation. “We’re very excited to be involved in it. We’re very interested in coming up with a bridge that the community can be proud of.”

Garver is partnering with HNTB, a Kansas City, Mo.-based engineering firm that Parker said has an “international reputation” for bridge design. It designed the U.S.82 bridge over the Mississippi River near Lake Village.

Central Arkansas leaders have cited the striking appearance of that $324 million bridge as a potential model for the new Broadway Bridge. The U.S. 82 cable-stayed bridge features two 425-foot towers anchoring four fans of steel cable supporting the span’s superstructure. The main span is 1,378 feet long, making it the longest cable stayed bridge on the Mississippi River and the fourth longest cable-stayed span in North America, according to HNTB.

“Signature bridges come in a lot of different shapes and sizes,” Parker said. “There are a lot of opportunities to provide a signature bridge.”

The company also designed the Interstate 244 bridge, which crosses the Arkansas River at Tulsa. It features access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and commuter and high-speed rail, with the interstate on top of it.

At Wednesday’s commission meeting, one of its newest members, Tom Schueck of Little Rock, said he has received several calls and letters stressing the importance of how the bridge will look, and he pressed state Highway Department officials to ensure that the design is in keeping with the wishes of the area.

“I will carry the banner,” he said.

Dan Flowers, the department director, said the design process will take into account outside ideas. “There will be a lot of public input.”

Frank Vozel, the department’s deputy director and chief engineer, said Garver and the other three firms were asked to submit detailed proposals, including renderings of bridges. Vozel passed one around as an example but declined to release it publicly, citing a provision in the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act that allows for a public-disclosure exemption for “files that, if disclosed, would give advantage to competitors or bidders.”

He told the commission that the renderings weren’t designs but rather concepts. “They’re not saying this is what [they] will propose. They are saying this is something that is feasible.”

In an interview after the meeting, Vozel said Garver was selected, in part, because of the company’s understanding of the work to be done, the firm’s proposed schedule to build the bridge and its past experience working with other agencies, including the Highway Department.

Vozel also cited Garver’s association with HNTB, which has “done a lot of work for us.” Among other projects, the department hired it to design the proposed Great River Bridge, a new span over the Mississippi River in east Arkansas that is supposed to serve as the crossing for proposed Interstate 69.

Garver also has partnered with the Little Rock engineering firm of Grubbs Hoskyns Barton & Wyatt, which Parker said specializes in geotechnical engineering. It will sample and test the rock strata in the river to aid in determining what type of foundation to usefor the bridge, Parker said.

Garver was one of 10 firms that expressed interest in designing the Broadway Bridge. The staff reviewed those letters, and asked Garver and three others to submit more detailed proposals. It was the review of those proposals that led to Garver’s selection. Garver hasn’t been officially notified, and Parker couldn’t say when a contract could be in place.

Once the contract is in place, state highway officials said, a “scoping” meeting will be held with local officials to discuss the functional aspects of the bridge, which will include the number of traffic lanes, bicycle lanes and sidewalks. With that information, Garver and HNTB can develop a preliminary design and seek public comment, which could tweak the design further.

Department officials told local officials earlier this year that the condition of the existing bridge, which originally opened in 1923, made it too costly to renovate and that the span must be replaced. They also said land constraints inthe area - the presence of Little Rock City Hall and the Robinson Center at the base of the south end of the bridge, among other things - require that the old bridge be removed before construction begins on the new one.

That means Broadway Bridge traffic, averaging 24,000 vehicles each day, will have to be diverted to the area’s four other Arkansas River crossings, with most of it likely using the Main Street Bridge and the Interstate 30 bridge. Those bridges average 12,000 and 120,000 vehicles a day, respectively.

Garver also will be responsible for shifting the bridgetraffic elsewhere during the construction.

“There are some challenges, but we’re looking forward to look it,” Parker said.

June Freeman, a longtime proponent of building a bridge that combines art with function, attended Wednesday’s commission meeting, as did Sybil Jordan Hampton, the former president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Hampton, too, welcomed a distinctive bridge design.

“I see the bridge as a tool for building community and building a kind of synergy between the people of North Little Rock and Little Rock,” she said.

Front Section, Pages 1 on 04/14/2011

Print Headline: Firm picked to design new Broadway Bridge

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