May 20, 2015 Edition

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County Judge Dale Freeman (from right), Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale and Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp led the first crossing of the new Black River Bridge at Black Rock on Friday morning.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

New Black River Bridge now open

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The new Black River Bridge at Black Rock opened for traffic Friday morning. County Judge Dale Freeman, Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale and Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp led the ceremonial first crossing of the bridge.

The new bridge is part of a $40 million project headed by the The Rasmussen Group with Jensen Construction Company of Des Moines, Iowa. The construction firm was awarded the winning bid in late 2012.

The new bridge is built just 15 feet from the old bridge built about 65 years ago.

The old bridge will be deconstructed by the same company that built the new bridge. Randy Ennis project superintendent said they have already started the process of taking the bridge down, which will be done over the next two to three months.

The new bridge will eventually carry five lanes of traffic but currently only has two lanes open. Freeman said it is only two lanes because the widening of Highway 63 from Portia to Black Rock is not complete.

With the surrounding highway still only at two lanes, Freeman said keeping the bridge at two lanes is the safer option. This also allowed the bridge to open sooner.

Getting to lead the first crossing of the new Black River Bridge wasn't something Freeman knew he was going to do until that morning. He said he was in the area when he was flagged down and asked if he wanted to be the first to cross the bridge. He soon called Ragsdale and Snapp to invite them to ride with him.

"It was real nice," Freeman said.

Also, Freeman said other projects in the Black Rock area are proceeding with American Silica, Inc., having already invested $36,000 to build up County Road 210 in preparation for a hydraulic fracturing plant.

Freeman said from what he's heard from Silica, he expects as many as 75 to 80 jobs will be available after the plant is built.

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