October 7, 2015 Edition

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Arkansas Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer (from left) speaks about the importance of the new Black River Bridge at Black Rock during the dedication ceremony Thursday. Also speaking at the dedication were, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett, State Senator Blake Johnson and Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Dedication held for
Black River Bridge

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

A special dedication ceremony was held at the new Black River Bridge at Black Rock Thursday with many county and state officials present.

The dedication featured several speakers including Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale, State Senator Blake Johnson, Arkansas Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer and Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett.

The new bridge, which opened in May, was a $40-million project, and one of three Highway 63 projects in the Black Rock area to have been commissioned since 2010.

Completed in 2012, the widening of 3.7 miles between Portia and Highway 63B was the first project. The widening of 1.5 miles between Black Rock and Portia is underway with an estimated completion date of late 2017.

The projects are all meant to increase safety for commuters and provide improved traffic flow for the highway, which extends far north through Missouri and up through to Wisconsin.

"This highway truly is the connector for North Arkansas," Farmer said. The highway continues through the Arkansas Delta down to Louisiana. The widening projects are expected to bring increased commerce and economic growth for the area.

"I can see it helping the economy at Black Rock a great deal," Ragsdale said. She said the weight restrictions required for the old bridge caused the rock crushing industry in the area to suffer with several jobs cut.

"I hope to see the rock crushers back to work with the weight limit increase," Ragsdale said. "I really am proud to have the new bridge open. Everyone in Black Rock is thrilled that it's open."

AHTD district engineer Walter McMillan and district staff were recognized at the dedication by Bennett for their work on this and various other projects.

The bridge construction was handled by Jensen Construction, who also demolished the old Black River Bridge.

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