State inspecting Black River bridge

Routine maintenance has been ongoing in recent weeks on the U.S. Hwy. 63 bridge at Black Rock that crosses the Black River.
TD Photo ~ Kem Roberts
John Bland

An Arkansas State Highway Department crew has been inspecting the U.S. Hwy. 63 bridge at Black Rock this week as a result of the bridge collapse last Wednesday in Minneapolis.

"Due to the catastrophic failure of the bridge in Minnesota, the Highway Department thought it prudent to inspect Arkansas bridges," said Joe Barnett, district highway engineer, of Paragould.

"We have no information on what caused the bridge to collapse in Minnesota," Barnett said. "To be on the safe side, we're inspecting the (Black River) bridge."

Bridges in Arkansas are on a regular two-year or less inspection schedule, Barnett explained. "Just to be on the safe side, we're inspecting them now, out of sequence."

"We continuously inspect bridges in Arkansas."

He said there would be several layers to this week's inspection. After the onsite inspection, engineers in Little Rock will evaluate the findings from a functional standpoint and make a total evaluation of the bridge.

The Black River bridge is presently classified as structurally deficient, Barnett said. "This doesn't mean it's unsafe; it doesn't mean it's going to collapse. It doesn't mean it can't carry the legal load limit."

This classification means that the bridge has been rated at or below a certain level by federal definition. Federal funding for bridge maintenance is determined by the ratings, he added.

Arkansas has six deck truss bridges that are designed similar to the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis. One is the bridge at Black Rock and another in this area is the U.S. Hwy. 62 bridge in Imboden, which is not rated as structurally deficit.

The daily traffic count on the bridge at Black Rock is 7,800, according to Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Bridges are rated based on three components: substructure or pilings, superstructure or trusses and the deck.

"Routine maintenance is going on now as it has in recent weeks," said Barnett.

"The bridge is quite old ~ no question, but it is not in any imminent danger of a major problem that we're aware of," he said, adding, "Bridges are not rigid structures. There is movement when a load crosses. That is expected."

The bridge was built in the 1940s.

(Editor's note: Next week, The TD will share historical information about the bridge at Black Rock.)

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