- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Federal officials say the Interstate 30 bridge over the Arkansas River needs to be replaced as part of a project to remake the I-30 corridor through North Little Rock and Little Rock.

Jerry Holder, a Garver engineering executive, is managing the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department’s Connecting Arkansas Program. He said an analysis of the bridge’s condition led engineers to determine that, while it might cost more on the front end to build a new bridge, it would last longer and be less expensive than to rehabilitate the bridge, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/13y17N0 ). A new I-30 bridge could cost as much as $450 million.

“Can it be rehabbed? Yes,” Holder said. “Can it last a long time? No. It’s like the roof on your house. You can only fix the roof so many times before it becomes more expensive to fix it rather than replace it.”

The I-30 corridor project is a part of the Connecting Arkansas Program. The project is one of 35 across 19 corridors around the state. The $1.8 billion program is financed by a temporary half-percentage-point increase in the state sales tax, which voters approved in November 2012. The tax is scheduled to expire in 2023.

Final design and construction of the I-30 corridor project isn’t scheduled to begin until 2017.

The bridge was built in 1958, and carries 125,000 vehicles daily. It remains safe but has several problems that, if addressed separately, would cost close to the price of a new bridge but wouldn’t last as long, Holder said. A new bridge built to a standard would be designed to last 75 years, he said.

Among the issues is the I-30 bridge is a “fracture-critical bridge,” which means it wasn’t designed, as bridges are now, with redundancies that ensure a bridge will be able to “perform its design function in a damaged state,” according to the Federal Highway Administration.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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