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Work to start June 4 on pedestrian bridge.

Pedestrians will have a new mode of navigating the Arkansas River between the downtown areas of Little Rock and North Little Rock when the Junction Bridge Project is completed in spring 2008.

That's if the 10-month construction process, which kicks into gear June 4, goes as planned.

"While a river divides, a bridge connects, and that's exactly the purpose of all of the effort that's been expended to make this happen," said Billy Ann Myers, chairman of the Pulaski County Bridges Facility Board, at an event last week at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce to announce the plans. "We hope the end result of this project will transform the way people view the downtowns on both sides of the river and create an even better relationship and opportunities between both sides."

The board was created about five years ago to turn the old railroad bridge into a pedestrian connector. Through grants and private donations, the $4.8 million project is now a reality.

May Construction of Little Rock won the bid. Design work will be done by McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. of Little Rock.

The bridge, originally built in 1885 as a wooden structure before going steel in the 1920s, will be 17 feet wide for bikers and pedestrians, with a winding staircase and an elevator shaft built to maneuver the lifted section near the North Little Rock bank.

(For comparison, the Big Dam Bridge, which opened last fall near the Interstate 430 Bridge at Cook's Landing, is 14 feet wide.)

The Bridge Facilities Board is still trying to raise an additional $1 million for lighting, furnishings and awnings, among other finer details.

County Judge Buddy Villines, a champion of the Big Dam Bridge, said both North Little Rock and Little Rock, along with Pulaski County, will contribute $25,000 each year for maintenance and upkeep of the bridge, which will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The Junction Bridge Project also includes small patches of land on either side of the Arkansas River at the bridge's entrances. On the north side, the bridge's entrance will connect to Washington Street and a resurging downtown North Little Rock. On the south side, designers are working to meld the bridge's entrance to plans the Little Rock Parks & Recreation Department already has in place for Riverfront Park upgrades.
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Title Annotation:TOURISM
Comment:Work to start June 4 on pedestrian bridge.(TOURISM)
Author:Hinkel, Nate
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:May 21, 2007
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