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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — A wooden bridge on 14th Street in North Little Rock, shown here on April 27, 2018. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

The city of North Little Rock has been awarded a $470,000 grant that will be used to build a new pedestrian bridge on 14th Street over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

The bridge, planned to be 10 feet wide and 140 feet long, will replace a 72-year-old wooden structure built for vehicles but deemed too dangerous for the past two years for even pedestrians to use. The route, though, is a vital and safe crossing in a residential area, especially for children, given it is a short distance from a local Boys and Girls Club.

In the application for the grant, city officials say pedestrians are crawling between cars of stopped trains, creating what they said was "an unsafe condition."

Nathan Hamilton, a spokesman for the city, called the grant award "wonderful."

The city wanted to replace the bridge, but with funding uncertain, a new bridge wasn't a given, he said.

"We wanted it, but it was very expensive," Hamilton said. "Now that we'll be getting significant federal funding for it, that helps the decision-making process."

The project is one of 30 projects for which the Arkansas Department of Transportation awarded grants totaling $8 million under the Transportation Alternatives Program, which distributes federal money set aside for projects focused on pedestrians, bicyclists and other nonmotorized forms of transportation.

Ten other projects were awarded a total of $1.4 million under a separate Recreational Trails Program that the department also administers.

Other notable awards included $500,000 for Phase 3 of the Dean's Trail in Springdale and an identical amount to add sidewalks on Church Street and lighting on Main Street in Vilonia.

Van Buren received $492,000 for improvements to its downtown streetscape.

The agency also awarded $330,000 for safety improvements to the Two Rivers Park Bike Trail in Pulaski County and $200,000 for the Boyle Mountain Bike Park Trails in Little Rock.

The smallest amount awarded was $20,000 for the Sulphur Springs Park Trail in Sulphur Springs.

The estimated cost of the new 14th Street bridge is $597,166. Under the terms of the grant program, the city will have to come up with the roughly $120,000 match using city street funds. Construction is estimated to begin within a year of the city receiving the money.

The bridge has long been a critical east-west thoroughfare through the heart of the city, part of Ward 1 and two blocks off Main Street. The bridge it replaces was built in 1947, according to news clippings provided by the North Little Rock History Commission, which said that bridge replaced an earlier one that dated to the early part of the last century.

The bridge was closed in March 2018 due to safety concerns. Earlier this year, the City Council voted to abandon the bridge, which would allow Union Pacific to remove it while the city pursued grants to build a new one. The bridge has yet to be removed.

The only other access is a crossing on 13th Street, but it isn't separated from the tracks like the 14th Street bridge.

"We're thrilled," said council member Debi Ross, who represents Ward 1 and voted against removing the old bridge. "It's for the safety of the children to get to school and the community center."

Information for this report was provided by Jake Sandlin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 09/10/2019

Print Headline: Funding awarded for North Little Rock bridge to replace wooden structure deemed too dangerous


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