BY MELANIE BUCK –
As the gateway to the Talimena National Scenic Byway, beautification surrounds Highway 88 West, with exception to the ever-aging guardrails that line the roads and safeguards travelers from treacherous drop-offs on the winding path.
While structurally sound, the guardrails are dented, chipped, and rusted. Chad Adams, District 4 Engineer for the Arkansas State Highway Department confirmed they have received complaints, but with the rails being structurally sound and the limited funds of his department, they are limited in what they can do.
Adams said, “The Highway Department is responsible for the structural integrity of the guardrail. We have been working on replacing damaged posts and sections of rail over the past few months. And, as personnel and equipment are available, we are clearing overgrown brush that has grown up behind some sections of the rail. However, the main complaint that I have heard has to do with the aesthetics of the guardrail, not the structural integrity.”
Deemed to be safe, just not pleasing to the eye, the Highway Department is limited in what they can do. “The guardrail was painted brown years ago, when this highway was constructed, in an effort to blend in with the scenery. This was done either at the request of, or in partnership with the Department of Parks and Tourism,” Adams explained.
Through the years, the paint has faded and chipped away and rusted in many portions of the railings. Damage from fallen trees is also visible in many areas, but, as Adams explained, the structural integrity remains. “From an aesthetical perspective, it is now in need of a fresh coat of paint. The Highway Department does not have funds for this type of work, but we are willing to issue a permit allowing others to repaint the guardrail.”