Budget too small for bridge repair

Thursday, August 16, 2007

In the wake of the tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota Aug. 1, local officials are working to ensure individuals of the safety of our county bridges.

According to an article published by the Associated Press, approximately eight percent of the 12,398 bridges in Arkansas -- 963 -- are deemed structurally deficient by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. Of those structures 629 are county bridges.

The designation does not mean the deficient bridges must be closed, Glenn Bolick, spokesman for the state highway and transportation department said in the AP report. "If any of them were unsafe, we would close them," he said.

Of the 111 bridges in Fulton County, the state annually inspects 41. In 2007, the state department designated 12 as structurally deficient.

Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said he is aware of the problem, and the county works to maintain roadway and bridge safety. "The Arkansas Highway Department inspects (county bridges) every year and gives us a report," Willett said. "We know where the problem areas are, and we are working to make things as safe as possible."

In fact, Fulton County is in the process of working to rebuild one of its bridges, Willett said. "We work constantly to get grant money -- any federal or state help that is possible," he said. "We're getting federal and state aid right now to rebuild the bridge on Pickren Hall Road."

Willett said the state accepted a bid from Robertson Construction out of Poplar Bluff, Mo., for $892,258.54. "That was the best bid from several. It's amazing when you realize the cost," he said. "When (the county) can only afford to budget $55,000 for bridges -- that doesn't go too far. But we're thankful; the county only has to pay two percent of that cost."

Since Willett took office in 2005, the county has fully replaced seven bridges.

Willett said the county works as best as it can to ensure travel safety despite budget restraints. "It's hard with our budget, but we do the best we can," he said. "After this (Pickren Hall Road bridge) is finished, we'll keep on working to get more federal and state help to fix what's necessary."


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