BY MELANIE BUCK –
Residents and travelers west of Grannis will be happy to know that the long-awaited completion of the Polk 4 bridge is now complete. Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison said the old bridge was in bad need of replacing and was under close watch by the Arkansas Highway Department Bridge Inspector.
The old bridge on Polk 4, also known as Youngblood Road, was made of wood, sat low, had no guardrails, and was very narrow, only 12 feet wide by 64 feet long. Many times, even in “moderate floods,” the bridge would be under water and impassable, according to Ellison. Although the bridge inspector wanted “major repairs” done to the bridge, Ellison explained that it was not cost effective to keep repairing the bridge, and decided to replace it instead.
He said county crews have had to repair the bridge many, many times, and especially during any notable amount of rain. “If two inches of rain falls pretty quickly here, the Rolling Fork rises up and covers the bridge,” said Ellison. There is a fair amount of traffic on the road between residents and, often times, log trucks hauling timber. To Ellison, it was simply time to fix it right.
County crews were able to complete much of the dirt and gravel work as well as approach work for the new bridge, saving the county’s cost. In total, the new bridge cost $129,000, but a little more than half is being reimbursed by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. “I had applied, unsuccessfully, for a grant to fix it for at least two years. We were finally able to secure that grant last Fall,” said Ellison. The Hazard Mitigation Grant will reimburse the county for $68,000 of the cost, bringing the county’s expense down to $61,000. Around $113,000 of the total cost was paid to Husky Bridge out of Malvern for their bid on the project.
The new bridge is of steel and concrete construction. It stretches 72 feet in length and is 16 feet wide. It also sits four feet higher than the old timber bridge. Ellison hopes the new height will keep the water from covering the structure. “If the Rolling Fork River covers this bridge, it will be out of its banks,” explained Ellison.
The Polk 4 bridge is one of three bridges to be replaced in that part of the county in the last few years. Ellison said all three were “major projects” where the replacement of the bridges cut constant repair costs dramatically. County road crews are now gearing up for their Spring road projects.