ARDOT: Repair of Highway 127 bridge in the works

A motorist drives over a one-lane road where a bridge on Highway 127 washed out in April 2017.

Plans to repair a bridge on Highway 127 south of Huntsville – that washed out in April 2017 – are being developed by the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

The bridge washed out April 28 and 29, 2017.

Danny Straessle, public information officer for ARDOT, said the state has received funding to repair the bridge.

“Indeed, we did receive around $1 million from FEMA for damages in 2017 resulting from a washout,” he said of funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Our engineers have decided to replace this structure with a better one that will withstand future ‘washout’ events. We are also chipping-in approximately $200-$300 thousand in state funds for this upgrade,” Straessle said.

Jeff Scott, who has lived along Highway 127 for 24 years, said last week he is not happy with the lack of progress.

“I live in Witter just south of Huntsville on South Highway 127. Our bridge washed out almost three years ago and has not been fixed,” he wrote to The Record.

“We are still driving across a single lane culvert bridge. It will be three years next April that it washed out,” Scott said.

Madison County Judge Frank Weaver said, “I believe that’s a state highway bridge, not a county bridge.

“It goes back toward Venus Mountain and that is an Arkansas Highway Department bridge. I can’t comment on that.”

Weaver said although the bridge is one lane, “It’s not impassible.”

Weaver on Monday said that weekend rain washed out numerous sections of roads in Madison County.

Scott said he could not remember who he spoke with at ARDOT last year.

“He said, ‘Well, we got the FEMA money, we’re just waiting on estimates to come in.’

“Nobody’s been out there, nobody’s done anything. It’s crazy.”

Scott, especially, said he was concerned with the lack of guardrails at the bridge.

“It don’t have no siderails. No one’s gone off the edge yet, but if we ever get a heavy snowstorm or something, somebody could slide off that thing,” Scott said.

A partial railing is located on an approach on one side of the former bridge.

“There’s no railing whatsoever on either side to keep people from going in the ditch or going off that bridge right there,” Scott said.

“It’s already washed out once this year and they put bigger boulders in there. It hasn’t washed out yet again this year, but every year that darned thing keeps washing out. I don’t understand. We’ve had a one-lane bridge for over two years.”

Straessle said the washed-out bridge needs to be updated.

“The existing culvert contains five 14-feet by 9-feet plate arch pipes. It washes out every year or two and requires major repairs,” Straessle said in an email.

“Our engineers are planning a new structure that will be a sextuple 12-foot by 10-foot box culvert with concrete side slopes. This will make the roadway much less likely to wash out when it overtops.

“Additionally, they want to widen the roadway to current standards for safety. The existing roadway has two, 10-foot travel lanes with 4-foot unpaved shoulders. The new road would have two, 11-foot travel lanes with 4-foot shoulders (2 feet of that 4 will be paved),” Straessle said.

A contract to build a new bridge should become a reality next year.

“As you can see, much has been in motion for some time. We anticipate letting this project to contract in the latter part of 2020,” he said.

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