A $500,000 federal grant administered by the Arkansas Highway Department will start the process to make Saline County’s 124-year-old “Old River Bridge” serviceable again.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge allows passage over the Saline River and was built in 1891. In 1974 it was closed after being damaged by a truck with a too-heavy load of concrete blocks.
Saline County Regional Park and Recreation Area, Inc. and others pursued the bridge project to remake it into a walking and biking trail. The grant will pay for the first two of four phases needed for the restoration project, starting with dismantling, then rehabilitating, the 200-foot span.
Finding money for new piers and putting it back up again will come later, says Saline County Judge Jeff Arey. Arey and other organizers envision the project as part of a larger recreational trail stretching from downtown Little Rock to downtown Hot Springs named the Southwest Trail, after the path pioneers took southwest to Texas.
The grant, part of a $16 million federal program for alternatives to car transportation, was supported by U.S. Rep. French Hill, R; U.S. Sen. John Boozman; the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas; Metroplan; the cities of Benton, Bryant, Haskell and Shannon Hills; state Sen. Alan Clark; and former county judge and current state Rep. Lanny Fite.