The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said today it expects the Broadway Bridge will close the morning of Sept. 28 for a replacement project expected to take about six months.
Work has been underway on various parts of the project so that, when closed, destruction of the old span and replacement could be done in the shortest possible time. The contractor gets a bonus for beating the six-month window.
Part of the delay to date has been put down to weather and materials for the bridge superstructure — an
non-functional element added to the design of the replacement for a 93-year-old bridge for aesthetic purposes. (It’s under construction along the North Little Rock bank of the Arkansas River. Decide for yourself on the success of the aesthetic upgrade.) CORRECTION: An engineer says the superstructure is a structural element in the final design, but it is true that the original design was changed to add the arches to make it more architecturally striking. A Calatrava bridge it ain’t.
Some 25,000 cars cross the bridge each day. Broadway, with a functioning bridge, is already a big bottleneck at rush hour. As traffic seeks alternative routes, the new bottlenecks are certain to be mind-boggling, particularly in the beginning. I expect Circle of Hell conditions on Scott Street, which is the funnel for the Main Street bridge. The Interstate 30 bridge will get some of the flow, too. Perhaps schedule adjustments will be in order.
Winter is iffy construction time. The six-month window runs through March, covering Arkansas’s coldest and iciest months.
The official release:
In a much anticipated announcement today, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department set Wednesday, September 28, 2016 as the last operational service day of the 93-year-old U.S. Highway 70 bridge that crosses the Arkansas River.
At 10:00 a.m. on this day, the structure will be closed to traffic for the last time since it opened on Christmas Day 1922. The closure will extend from the intersection of U.S. Highway 70 and West Broadway Street in North Little Rock (in front of the baseball stadium) to the intersection with West Markham Street in Little Rock. See attached map with details of the closure and prescribed alternate routes.
Although several alternate route options exist, the State Highway 5 (Main Street) bridge is the official alternate route across the river. The Department’s Construction and Travel Information site, www.IDriveArkansas.com, displays available alternate routes as well as live traffic information on those routes. Motorists are encouraged to select an alternate route that works best for their individual commutes and to start using these before the bridge actually closes.
Once the existing bridge is closed, the contract calls for the new bridge to be opened to traffic within six months. This timeframe was provided by the contractor in its bid on the project. An earlier opening will earn the contractor an incentive of $80,000 per day.
Conversely, a longer closure would cost the contractor an equal daily disincentive.
During the closure, the demolition of the existing structure will be accomplished in stages. Some of the early demolition work will occur mechanically. There will be at least three phases that will use cutting charges and other explosives to remove the existing concrete arches, the steel arch, and the existing footings. Announcements of the dates for the demolition phasing that will use “blasting” will be forthcoming.
In September 2014, Kansas City, Missouri-based Massman Construction Company was awarded a $98.4 million contract to replace the U.S. Highway 70 Bridge over the Arkansas River. At the time it was the single largest contract ever awarded by the Department.
Although the original structure opened to traffic in late December 1922, it wasn’t until the spring of 1923 that the entire project was completed at a cost of $971,000. In 1972 the bridge was modified by removing two spans on the south side to make way for a single,
wider navigation span when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The single, silver-colored arch that has become an iconic part of the city of Little Rock’s skyline was paid for by the Corps of Engineers at an approximate cost of $2.5 million.