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County Judge: Broadway Bridge should be ‘attractive structure’

<p>Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines spoke recently to the North Little Rock Rotary Club about his vision for a patriotic bridge to take the place of the Broadway Bridge.</p><p>Greg Rayburn</p>

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines spoke recently to the North Little Rock Rotary Club about his vision for a patriotic bridge to take the place of the Broadway Bridge.

Greg Rayburn

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines said the Broadway Bridge needs to be replaced. So since a new one must be built, it should be built in style.

His comments were made recently to the North Little Rock Rotary Club.

“The Broadway Bridge has structural problems,” Villines said. “There are concrete chunks falling off the bottom of it. You can take a hammer and a chunk will come out as sand and gravel.”

Villines said the steel inside the Broadway Bridge has been deteriorating for a number of years. A study was commissioned to let engineers look at the Broadway Bridge and recommend the best ways to fix or replace it.

“Once that starts you can’t stop it,” Villines said. “You can mend it but that will last 50 years and you could spend up to $72 million. That didn’t make much sense to me.”

Villines said the Broadway Bridge needs to be an impressive structure because it connects two large Arkansas cities and exists at the center of the state.

“You are talking about the center of our community and state,” Villines said. “What you are doing in North Little Rock, Argenta and Big Dam Bridge, it needs to be an attractive structure.”

Villines said an impressive looking Broadway Bridge would attract people into the community.

“It encourages people to shop in our businesses and it helps the hospitality industry so people spend their money here,” Villines said. “That money goes into bank accounts and the money that goes into bank accounts is money borrowed by people to build a new house.”

Villines said when the current Broadway Bridge was built in 1923 it was dedicated to World War 1 veterans. “Most people don’t know that,” Villines said. “There is nothing on the Broadway Bridge that shows it is nothing more than a bridge. For years people did remember that. About 50-60 years ago Navy veterans would toss a wreath into the water to remember the veterans.”

Villines said he would like to see the Broadway Bridge be colored in a patriotic red, white and blue theme.

“Instead of hard steel and concrete, it could be warmed up to the point of creating art,” Villines said. “As I began to look at it, we could build on the history of the bridge and expand on it. And add color to it so that people know what we are doing.”

Villines said he wants to see the bridge named “America’s Bridge,” and dedicate it to American veterans who, “fought for freedom and peace.”

Under the arches of America’s Bridge would be 50 stars in the order each became a state in the union. He would also like to see famous quotes about freedom and peace and the names of people who have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Arkansas has had 11 such medal recipients.

Villines said he would like to see space dedicated to the different branches of the armed forces, including reservists, National Guard and the coast guard.

The bridge also would be lit at night so that its patriotic colors could be seen anytime, thus becoming a 24-hour memorial to veterans.

“To view it would be an experience,” Villines said. “A very patriotic experience.”

Villines said the bridge would stand as a statement that shows Americans can disagree politically but regardless of its citizens’ politics they are united under the colors of red, white and blue.

One side of the bridge would be an area of pedestrian traffic with the other side for bike travel, he added.

Villines said the county could invest $20 million over a four-year period from funds it already has set aside plus monies to be set-aside during the next few years. The county currently has $9.2 million in a reserve fund.

“This is a once in a 100-year opportunity,” Villines said.

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