City seeks input on historic bridge restoration

Traffic passes over the historic Lafayette Street bridge Wednesday evening in downtown Fayetteville.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

City officials have scheduled a public meeting to review and discuss plans to restore two historic bridges in downtown Fayetteville.

The drop-in style meeting will be held from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 inside room 111 of the City Administration Building, 113 W. Mountain Street.

The bridges, on Lafayette Street and Maple Street, cross over the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad tracks between West and Arkansas avenues.

Built in the mid-1930s through New Deal-era Works Progress Administration, the bridges are the only two pieces of city property on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bent and rusted railings, chipped concrete and broken lights are some of the aesthetic problems set to be addressed. Aside from cosmetic repairs, proposed plans include widened sidewalks and full replacement of at least one bridge deck and retaining wall.

A closer look at some of the damage.

By narrowing the driving lanes to a more standard size, officials hope to increase sidewalk widths to 9.5 feet on each side of the Maple Street bridge.

“That area has a tremendous amount of foot traffic, said Chris Brown, city engineer. “We’re really going to beef up pedestrian access across the bridge, while still providing adequate room to allow firetrucks and other emergency vehicles there.”

Deck replacement and surface repairs will likely require closing each bridge for up to three months. Brown said only one bridge would be closed at a time.

Officials hope to restore both bridges as closely as possible to their original Art Deco-style condition, but modern structural requirements could require a few changes. For example, Brown said the original guardrail heights would have to be raised to meet current standards unless some sort of additional railing is installed above them.

Part of Tuesday’s public meeting will involve asking residents how they feel about some of the required changes.

Alderman Matthew Petty, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee, said he’s a little concerned that a supplemental railing might not look as good as simply increasing the height of the ordinal guardrails.

“I certainly don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but I know that we’ve heard from a lot of citizens who want to see (the bridges) restored accurately,” said Petty.

Brown said full restoration plans are approximately 30 percent complete. Comments from the public meeting will be compiled with suggestions from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and the State Historic Preservation Office. Brown said ultimately, a memorandum of agreement on the final design details must be approved by the city, AHTD, SHPO, and the Federal Highway Administration.

The estimated $1.4 million project will be paid using $1 million in federal-aid Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program funds. The remainder of the cost will come from the Transportation Improvement Bond Program voters approved in 2006.

More bridge photos