Engineers talk in June during a pause in their inspection of the Broadway Bridge that spans the Arkansas River between downtown Little Rock and downtown North Little Rock. In a 50-page report dated Monday, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. engineers described what was found in a “limited assessment” of the 90-year-old Broadway Bridge. The report summary notes that a number of “deterioration mechanisms” affect the bridge and will continue so unless “near-term and ongoing intervention” is taken. (Photo by Greg Rayburn)
Little Rock and North Little Rock mayors have the ball back in their courts following the release of a report done for Metroplan to evaluate the Broadway Bridge.
Metroplan executive director Jim McKenzie said that any solution would be up to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays.
In the 50-page report dated July 9, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. noted that four options were considered: demolishing and replacing the bridge in the same location; keeping the bridge while a new bridge is built at Chester Street, and then rehabilitating the Broadway Bridge for alternate use; keeping and repairing the bridge for full use; and repurposing the bridge for pedestrian and bicycle use, and building a new bridge parallel to it.
The report describes what was found in June in a “limited assessment” of the Broadway Bridge done.
A summary notes a number of “deterioration mechanisms” affecting the bridge that will continue unless “near-term and ongoing intervention” is taken. Those issues need to be addressed, “yet can be remediated depending on a number of factors that Metroplan needs to weigh,” the report states.
Mayor Hays said Wednesday that he had seen early, rough drafts of the report, but he has not yet read the final report that was made available earlier in the day.
“Of course, I will be looking for whatever is in the best interest of the city,” Hays said. He said he has turned the report over to city engineers for their review and recommendations and expected to be able to comment later in the week or early next week.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola had not yet responded to a request for comment by press deadline.
There are problems to be fixed, the report states.
“The bridge is not falling down. It is still a robust structure,” McKenzie said. It would not be unreasonable to expect perhaps 50 years more of life with repairs and regular maintenance, he said.
But it is a 90-year-old bridge that will have escalating maintenance needs, McKenzie said. Deciding between a new bridge and keeping the old bridge in whichever form will have to take those costs into consideration.
Although the initial cost of a new bridge, estimated to between $50 and $60 million, would be substantially greater than repairing the current bridge, that savings would be reduced over time by the greater cost of maintaining an older bridge, McKenzie said.
And, in the end, “Sooner or later [the bridge] is going to have to come down,” McKenzie said.
If the cities take ownership of the bridge, then the cities would be responsible for the future demolition, McKenzie said. Current estimates are demolition would cost $7-$9 million.
The four construction options with their cost estimates are:
• Option 1: Building a new AHTD bridge in the same location and maintaining all current uses — $7-$9 million for demolition and an additional $50-$60 million for the replacement bridge;
• Option 2: Preserving the Broadway Bridge until a new Chester Street bridge is built, and then rehabilitating the Broadway Bridge for alternate use in 10 years — $16-$24 million;
• Option 3: Keeping and fully rehabilitating the existing bridge, maintaining all current uses — $16-$25 million;
• Option 4: Repurposing portions of the Broadway Bridge as a pedestrian/ bicycle-only structure, which would run parallel and to the east of a new AHTD vehicle-traffic-only bridge — $11-$16 million.
Maintenance costs for a 10-year period and reflecting a 3.4 percent inflation rate:
• Option 1: Demolishing the existing Broadway bridge and replacing it with a new AHTD bridge in the same location, maintaining all current uses; maintenance costs to be determined;
• Option 2: Preserve the existing bridge until a new Chester Street bridge is built, and then rehabilitating Broadway Bridge for alternate use in 10 years — $21 to $32 million;
• Option 3: Retaining and fully rehabilitating the existing bridge, maintaining all current uses — $28 to $42 million;
• Option 4: Repurposing portions of the existing Broadway Bridge as a pedestrian/ bicycle-only structure, which would run parallel and to the east of a new AHTD vehicle-traffic-only bridge — $19 to $27 million.