BENTONVILLE -- Benton County has received assurances that a $500,000 grant can be used for the repair and rehabilitation of War Eagle Bridge.
The county wanted to clarify the potential uses and any special requirements or restrictions on the money before proceeding with the project planning, said County Judge Bob Clinard. The county got the approval via email involving county officials; representatives of Great River Engineering, the county's consultant on the project; and the Federal Highway Administration office in Little Rock, Clinard said.
War Eagle Bridge
Benton County officials are considering ways to preserve the historic War Eagle Bridge, built in 1907. The county spent more than $640,000 on repair work in 2010, but inspection reports from the Highway Department in 2013 identified several critical deficiencies and a number of structural problems. The county has reduced the bridge’s posted weight limit to 3 tons while it considers other preservation options.
Source: Staff report
"Rehabilitation of the War Eagle Bridge may proceed and I am not aware of any special design requirements," Terry Daniel, a bridge engineer with the Federal Highway Administration office, wrote in one email. "Although the bridge could be retrofitted with steel beams to carry all legal loads, it may not be consistent with maintaining the historic character of the structure. It may be more realistic to restore the bridge to its original design capacity and to post the bridge accordingly for speed limit and weight restrictions. Also, if the structure is expected to be opened to pedestrian use for special events, it would be prudent for the designer to consider those effects on the structure and provide any recommendations for restrictions."
The county is still working with Great River to answer questions about the project and identify possible costs, Clinard said. In a preliminary report, Great River identified three options for repairing the bridge, with cost estimates ranging from just more than $700,000 to more than $1 million. Other issues already have been identified, Clinard said. For example, the options did not include the cost of repainting the bridge after the repair work is done.
"That's probably another quarter-million dollars right there," Clinard said. "You can't just sandblast it and blow it into the river. You've got to contain it."
The Transportation Committee will have a public hearing on War Eagle Bridge when it meets at 6 p.m. Jan. 14. Justices of the peace will hear presentations on the repair options and potential cost before being asked to consider whether to proceed with the next phase, which will be design work for the repairs, Clinard said. The county has paid Great River about $35,000 for the initial analysis work on the bridge, said comptroller Brenda Guenther, and design work is estimated to cost about $77,000. The county has $300,000 in the 2016 budget for costs related to War Eagle Bridge.
The timetable for the project presented by Great River Engineering calls for the design work to be done by November, Clinard said. If the project proceeds according to the timetable, the work would go out for bids in the spring of 2017 and the construction would be done in the summer of 2017.
Repair work will extend the life of the bridge by 15 years or more and the county should already be looking at what needs to be done beyond that time frame, Clinard said. If the justices of the peace decided to prioritize a "bypass bridge" to take most vehicle traffic off War Eagle Bridge, the full rehabilitation program might not be needed, he said.
"If we decided to build a bypass in five years, we might not need to do the full 15-year fix," he said.
Glenn Jones with the Benton County Historical Preservation Commission said he accepts the inevitability of having a new bridge in the area, but he wants the focus to be on saving War Eagle Bridge.
"There's no question in my mind that there's going to be a new bridge," Jones said. "The question is when? The main thing, from my point of view, is preserving War Eagle. The new bridge is going to be downstream, it has to be. It's going to be challenging because the stream is wider there. So it's going to take some time. From my perspective, we've got to concentrate on how we save War Eagle Bridge."
Barry Moehring, justice of the peace, said there are so many questions about a possible new bridge he doesn't think it should influence the decisions made on War Eagle Bridge.
"We need to fix War Eagle and get that done," Moehring said. "To my knowledge, the county doesn't have any information on traffic counts in the area. We haven't seen what the necessity of a new bridge is."
Pat Adams, justice of the peace and chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he wants to hear all of the questions and consider all the options at the Jan. 14 meeting. He said he hopes for public input on the issue at that same meeting. Adams said he's in favor of doing the full repair project on War Eagle Bridge, as things now stand.
"I'll be bringing those options up before the committee for discussion before we move anything on to the Finance Committee," Adams said. "I've kind of advocated for the 20-year bridge. A new bridge will depend on if there's any state of federal money to help with that. It could be 10 or 15 years before a new bridge could be built."
State Desk on 12/23/2015