Historic bridges restoration bid moves to City Council for approval

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A long-awaited project to restore the historic bridges on Lafayette and Maple streets is finally moving forward.

Aldermen are expected to sign off on a $1.7 million construction bid from Crossland Construction of Rogers at their next City Council meeting on Nov. 3.

Funding for the project is provided in part by $1 million in federal funds from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department with the remainder of the cost coming from a transportation bond program Fayetteville voters approved in 2006.

From bent and rusted railings to chipped concrete and broken lights, the 1930s-era bridges are clearly in need of a rehab.

Talk of repairs has circulated for nearly a decade, but it wasn’t until 2011 that a plan began to take shape.

The project has since been put on hold for a variety of reasons including bid overages and design dilemmas related to the bridges’ historic status.

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Both structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in order to retain that designation, special rehabilitation work is required to restore the bridges as close as possible to their original form. Because of this, all plans – and any subsequent revisions – had to be approved not only by city staff, but also by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

And since federal money was involved, the designs also had to be funneled through the state highway department.

City staff thought they’d found the light at the end of the tunnel in June when the project went out for construction bids, but only one bid was received – from Sweetser Construction of Fayetteville – for about $3.6 million which was more than double of engineers’ $1.6 million estimate for the project.

“We felt that was inflated and unrealistic,” said staff engineer Paul Libertini. “But there were no other bids so we had to go back to the drawing board.”

Libertini said several changes were made to the contract to make the project more flexible and attractive to construction companies. For example, the substantial completion requirement date was extended a bit and the contractual requirements were opened to allow subcontractors. And instead of completely rebuilding the concrete deck on the Maple Street bridge – which is still structurally sound – only the areas that need attention will be repaired.

If the bid is approved, Crossland would likely begin work in February or March, Libertini said. He added he expects construction to take about six months to complete.

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