- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

NEWPORT, Ark. (AP) - Momentum on a project designed to revamp Newport’s Blue Bridge into a pedestrian crossing has ground to a halt after a grant central to the proposal was denied.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1RGMegS ) reports that the city had agreed to take over maintenance of the 86-year-old span from the state, which planned to dismantle the bridge.

Under the agreement, the money the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department was to set aside to dismantle the bridge would be used to help revamp the bridge into a crossing that would include a walkway to the city’s downtown.

But after losing a grant that would’ve provided key federal funds for the conversion, the city council voted 8-0 to return the bridge to the state.

“In terms of our Arkansas history, it’s a tragedy. Period,” said Porter Briggs, a Little Rock businessman and preservationist. “History matters. These bridges are a big part of it.”



But Jon Chadwell, the executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission and a bridge booster, said the council was only being prudent.

“When the grant funding wasn’t there, it was the best decision they could make,” Chadwell said. “I’m not upset, but I’m sort of sad.”

State officials did note another round of grants would be awarded this spring, but Newport officials haven’t formally notified the department of its intentions.

The bridge is one of three on the White River designed by the late Ira Hedrick, a University of Arkansas engineering graduate who went on to build many bridges throughout the South.

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

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