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Thursday, May 5, 2016

New bridges for Oxford

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Equipment and pipe are standing by as a St. Louis company prepares to begin work to replace three old bridges and a culvert on Highway 9 at Oxford. Highway 9 will be widened and shoulders will be added in the areas where the bridges are replaced. The state highway department is overseeing the $2 million project, a continuation of work to make the narrow, winding road safer. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
After years of inconvenience for motorists, this is supposed to be the final construction season for a big project to improve Highway 9 between Brockwell and Melbourne.

But don't expect construction zones to completely disappear.

A new project at Oxford, near the Fulton County line in northern Izard County is just gearing up.

"We are going to be replacing three bridges and one box culvert at Oxford," said Lyndal Waits, the District Engineer for the Arkansas Department of Highways and Transporation in Batesville. "This is a continuation of the projects in the Brockwell-Melborne area."

The $2,013,000 project was awarded by the state to Pace Construction of St. Louis in September of 2011.

This winter, the company began putting drainage pipes and heavy equipment at the bridge sites, and has finished some excavation work and installed some of the pipes along Highway 9 near Fox Den Road.

The project will replace a deficient bridge over Sandy Creek with a new box culvert. Two other bridges and a culvert, which are on unnamed tributaries to the Strawberry River, will also be replaced.

The contract for the project gives 165 work days for the bridge and road improvements to be finished. That means, it should be finished in two construction seasons.

The improvements are welcomed by Oxford Mayor Mike Warden.

"The bridges are old and in need of replacing," Warden said. "They are going to make the highway safer in the area around the bridges, by making the road wider and adding shoulders."

Waits agreed saying, "The finished roadway will consist of two 12-foot-wide travel lanes, with six-foot-wide shoulders."

Warden hopes the bridge improvements are just a first phase, and some dangerous curves will eventually be removed and more road widening will take place around Oxford.

Engineer Waits said he would like to, one day, see Highway 9 widened all the way from Salem to Melbourne, but don't get your hopes up.

"Because the bridges are deficient, we are obtaining federal funding to help replace them," Waits said. "By leveraging the federal money, the state's cost is just 20 percent of the total cost."

Highway construction funds are not plentiful, however, and further Highway 9 improvments are not on the drawing board.

"Further work in the Oxford area is not in our Step Program, which lays out the state's road plan in three year increments," Waits said.

Work to improve Highway 9 safety from an area south of Brockwell to Melbourne began so many years ago, many Izard County residents call it "the never ending project."

But progress has been made. In the summer of 2010, work was completed to put in a new bridge and eliminate a dangerous curve south of Brockwell.

In Brockwell, several old steel bridges were replaced with box culverts, a dangerous "S" curve was removed by routing traffic to a new section of roadway, and the road was widened.

Because of the mild winter, there has been early activity to resume work on the Highway 9 improvements.

With a new bridge and two large box culverts completed last year, work will concentrate on widening most of a four mile section to three lanes.

That will allow passing lanes for north and south bound traffic. Steep slopes on the current road surface are being flattened out, some dangerous curves are being eliminated and eight foot shoulders are being added for improved safety.

Last fall, state highway engineer Kenny Bowren said the work should be finished this summer, and residents can look forward to a safer, more enjoyable driving experience in the Brockwell-Melbourne area.

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It would be nice if we could get a new bridge down our road in Oxford. It's not safe, and has been repaired numerous times (rewelded, holes in the metal patched.

-- Posted by goatgirl on Sat, Mar 24, 2012, at 9:43 PM

I don't take bridges for granted either. I am sure there are so many in need of replacing. What ever happened to all the people who would want things right and just get after the job at hand! Clue: They are all almost gone in this world.

I hope you get the word out goatgirl and get that bridge fixed right. I also hope it doesn't take someone getting hurt for someone to take action. Good Luck.

-- Posted by Bigozarkhill on Mon, Mar 26, 2012, at 4:20 PM

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