Looking for forever home

ARDOT is willing to donate this bridge in Arkadelphia to a responsible party.

The historic Arkansas 51 bridge, which has spanned the Ouachita River on the east side of Arkadelphia for more than 60 years, is available for donation.

Arkansas Department of Transportation officials posted a letter earlier this month noting the bridge’s availability to a responsible party.

The letter by John Fleming, head of ARDOT’s Environmental Division, said the bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. The bridge has been replaced by a new span over the river.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act requires any state which proposes to demolish a historic bridge for a replacement project must first make the bridge available for donation to a “state, locality, or responsible private entity.

“As part of the mitigation process, ARDOT is offering to donate Bridge Number 01412 to any government or entity that demonstrates a willingness to accept title for, maintain in place or relocate it for use at another site, preserve the historic features of, and assume the financial responsibility for the continued maintenance on the structure. The construction of the new bridge on Highway 51 was completed after the original sponsor opted out of accepting the bridge.

“ARDOT, through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), can reimburse costs associated with preservation up to the demolition estimate expense for bridges preserved in place. The demolition estimated reimbursement will be determined by the FHWA, not to exceed 100% of the costs of demolition of the bridge, which will be based on the estimate by ARDOT. The 2018 demolition estimate for this bridge is $189,000. The costs associated with preservation could include rehabilitation of the bridge or minor modifications for recreational use.

“If the bridge is relocated, the reimbursement funds allocated to this bridge will be exhausted during the careful dismantling and relocation process,” Fleming’s letter said.

Entities interested in acquiring the bridge have until mid-March to respond with a letter of interest to Fleming.

“Such letter submission does not commit an entity to accept the bridge. Following its receipt, ARDOT’S Historic Bridge Analysis Committee will request a preservation plan, including required information for consideration, before a preferred recipient is selected. If multiple letters of interest are received, preference will be given to the entity accepting the bridge for preservation in place,” Fleming’s letter said.

Interested parties may contact Nikki Senn at (501) 569-2979 or Nikki.Senn@ardot.gov.

The bridge has been moved once before.

The Luten Bridge Company of Little Rock built the steel/Parker through truss bridge in 1933 over the Caddo River. The truss span was moved to its current location in 1960.

Charles H. Parker patented the Parker truss in 1870. It is a variation of the Pratt truss design using less metal and offering greater economy of materials. The Parker truss exhibits a polygonal (curved) top chord and inclined end posts. The bridge’s top chords connect above the roadway; therefore, it is called a through truss.

The steel truss is 202 feet long and approximately 25 feet wide. The bridge was removed from vehicular service in 2018 upon completion of the new Highway 51 bridge.

Only one other Parker through truss, the War Eagle Bridge, currently remains in vehicular service in Arkansas.

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