Highway officials to make formal bridge presentation
BEAVER -- Although the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) has decided not to replace the Beaver, Butler Creek and Leatherwood Creek bridges at this time, the department will still hold a public hearing April 4 at the Beaver Community Center and make a formal presentation of the results of the 286-page environmental assessment.
PBS&J, an environmental consulting firm out of Austin, Texas, was hired to do the assessment last year as part of AHTD's proposed project to replace the three bridges, which has been ongoing for five years.
The assessment looks at a number of factors and is divided into four sections: 1. Purpose and Need, 2. Alternatives, 3. Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences, and 4. Conclusion. Included in the "Purpose and Need" section are maps of proposed bridge locations and approaches and a traffic analysis, including accident statistics and future projections for Ark. Hwy. 187.
In the "Alternatives" section, all possible solutions to the bridge replacement project are examined, including the "no-build" alternative as well as building other roadways to bypass Eureka Springs.
The "Environmental" section looks at population, "environmental justice," economics, land use, housing and "community cohesion" and right-of-way issues, along with air quality, noise, soils, farmlands, parkland, hazardous materials, mineral resources, floodplains, water quality and visual and aesthetic qualities.
The natural environment subsection addresses vegetation and plants, waters and wetlands, aquatic life, protected species, historic properties and archeology.
Exhibits include maps, aerial photos, design plans, letters and statistics tables.
In its conclusion, AHTD, via the assessment, opts for the "no-build" alternative, although it does caution that continuing with current conditions means "greater distances and longer travel times for tour buses, moving vans, delivery vehicles and construction vehicles bound for the resort and retirement community at Holiday Island.... Residents on the west side of the lake will continue to experience higher costs (surcharges) for the delivery of construction materials and services requiring the use of larger vehicles."
The conclusion also notes delays associated with weather conditions and large vehicles that ignore the load limit signs and must turn around.
AHTD gives three major reasons for its "no-build" decision: small traffic volumes (less than 1,000 vehicles per day crossing Beaver Bridge), the "magnitude of the environmental impacts" on the approach roadways, and the local opposition.
The report acknowledges that a new bridge construction, with deeply cut sections through the hills on each side of the lake would "introduce visual effects into the Beaver Valley similar to the deeply cut section along US 62 at the western Carroll County line," i.e., the Kings River Bridge.
The AHTD will hold the Tuesday, April 4, at 7 p.m. at the Beaver Community Center. Personnel will be on hand to make a presentation and answer questions.
A copy of the assessment can be obtained by contacting the AHTD at (501) 569-2009.