by Max Brantley
A cyclist called with concerns about a detour from the existing River Trail between the Big Dam Bridge and the new Two Rivers Bridge. He may put aside worries that somebody plans a feeder street for autos in the vicinity.
Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines explains that the blacktop detour has been built to clear a construction zone for a new $4 million southwest ramp from the Big Dam Bridge. The ramp will allow for an easy split of bike and foot traffic to the east and west as it descends the south end of the bridge. This will eliminate some turn congestion that sometimes occurs there. Villines said the county had been saving money from the road and bridge fund for years to pay for the ramp, which was planned when the bridge was originally constructed but unaffordable in the $12.8 million price tag. It opened in 2006.
He added that construction of the ramp will essentially make it impossible to run a vehicular road into the area.
Tea Partyers have on occasion grumbled about the cost of the bridge, a crown jewel of the local park system and a huge attraction for fitness buffs and sightseers, though road and bridge money paid for the project along with federal grants. Villines has a ready answer for those who'll be riled again by further construction, in addition to the obvious benefits of a better link with the new Two Rivers Bridge and its connection to miles of park trails.
"We've spent less than 5 percent of the budget over the years on the project," Villines said. He added that the county has replaced 83 bridges in unincorporated areas during his tenure and has one of the best county road systems in the state.