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The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department held an open-forum public meeting about a replacement span for the Broadway Bridge this evening in North Little Rock. Rather than a presentation/speaker format, the AHTD uses a more informal "meet and greet" style, with the proposed bridge designs arranged around the room on easels and AHTD engineers and administrators available to answer the questions from the public.
More details on the jump...
On entering, participants were given a packet containing the proposed bridge designs, a comment form. Participants could either turn their comment in tonight or mail it to the AHTD in a provided envelope by Sept. 25.
Up for review were four proposed designs:
"Alternative 1" would remove the original bridge entirely and build an entirely new bridge in its same footprint, making the bridge a straight shot from Broadway as it is now, but requiring the span to be completely impassible for between 18-22 months. Estimated construction cost would be between $60.2 - $63.7 million.
The other three alternatives — the so-called "offset alignment" plans, because they would require Broadway to curve to meet the foot of the new bridge — would close the span for 3 months, with the original bridge either remaining in place as a pedestrian span or being demolished after the new bridge opens to traffic.
The photo above is a closeup showing the curve in Broadway that would be created by the "offset alignment" plan. Robinson Center is on the left.
"Alternative 2," at a cost of $61.8 million, would demolish the original bridge after an offset-aligned span with no arch was built.
"Alternative 3A," at a cost of $56.5 million, would retain the original bridge as a pedestrian span, while building a steel truss bridge on the East side of the original bridge. Because of its increased thickness, the steel truss bridge would not exactly match the height of the original bridge.
"Alternative 3B", at a cost of $62.6 million, would build a span next to the original bridge that's nearly identical to the original bridge, including an arch over the shipping channel that mirrors the arch of the current Broadway Bridge.
Demolition costs for the designs that would remove the original span are estimated at $4.8 million. Demolition costs on those spans that keep the old bridge in place as a pedestrian bridge are estimated at $900,000.
While there do seem to be some interesting architectural flourishes on the four designs, overall the options are fairly flat and uninspiring, with none of the boldness some had hoped would make the Broadway Bridge replacement a new landmark for Little Rock.
Stephen Mitchell, Senior Transportation Planner with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said that while there has been a lot of talk about building an "Iconic Bridge" by the Mayors of Little Rock and North Little Rock and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, "iconic bridges cost a lot of money."
"We have a large state highway system that's underfunded," Mitchell said. "In fact, we're going to the voters in November for a 1/2 cent sales tax to do some additional improvements. It's really hard to talk to people out in the state and tell them that we need this sales tax to help improve the system statewide when they see us spending what they consider to be frivolous money on 'decoration', if you will, in the Little Rock area."
Sherry Bruno lives in North Little Rock, and turned out this afternoon to look over the proposals. Bruno said she has driven over the Broadway Bridge to get to work in Little Rock twice a day since 1971. She's sure there will be traffic tie-ups while the bridge is down.
"Getting to work is a good thing," Bruno said. "The traffic at the foot of the Main Street Bridge on the Little Rock side because of the trolley, the convention center and the River Market is absolutely a nightmare. I don't want them to tear down my bridge and not be able to get to work."
Bruno said she preferred the options that would leave the original span in place during construction of the new bridge, while putting the crossing completely out of commission for only three months. Overall, however, she said she found the proposed designs rather bland.
"Hopefully this bridge will last another hundred years," she said. "I would like it to look nice. I love North Little Rock and I love living here. We've got all kinds of things going on downtown and I'd like to see this be part of some of the progress."
Gregory Ferguson of Little Rock also attended the meeting. He said he expected a formal meeting where the designs would be presented to the public and commenters could ask questions instead of the less formal style. Like Burno, he found the designs a bit underwhelming. "I didn't see any of the designs in there that were even comparable to what we have," he said. "There's no grand, sweeping design."
Ferguson said he'd fill his out his comment sheet and send it in, but said the better alternative to him apparently isn't on the table: an all-new crossing linking Little Rock's Chester Street and Pike Avenue in North Little Rock.
"That, to me, would be the better alternative: the Chester Street bridge, and then leave the Broadway Bridge where it is," Ferguson said. "That would take off some of the traffic flow.... To me, they didn't get enough input early enough, now they're coming to us saying okay: Door Number 1, Door Number 2 or Door Number 3?"
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