LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Less than a year after completion of the city's first pedestrian-and-bicycle bridge across the Arkansas River, work began Tuesday on the second.
Renovation of the historic Junction Bridge, which formerly carried railroad traffic across the river, will provide a crossing near the downtown areas of both Little Rock and North Little Rock for people on foot or riding bicycles.
"This is one of the most important historical assets this community has," Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines said. "This bridge has been here over 100 years. What it will do is connect the really thriving markets of both Little Rock and North Little Rock and it will make both sides stronger."
In October, officials opened a brand-new bridge for walkers, runners and bikers, the Big Dam Bridge crossing above Murray Lock and Dam, several miles west of the downtown area. That bridge, however, was especially built for its purpose, not a conversion as is planned for the Junction Bridge.
The Junction Bridge will carry non-motorists on a surface 17 feet wide and 1,800 feet long. The entrance on the river's south side will be near the Riverfront Amphitheater in Little Rock's River Market, while northside access will be near Alltel Arena and Riverfront Plaza in North Little Rock.
The project is expected to cost $5.8 million, using a combination of federal, state and local money. Work is expected to be complete in time for Riverfest 2008 on Memorial Day weekend.
"We're really excited about it," said Billie Ann Myers, a member of the Pulaski County Bridge Facilities Board. "It's been eight to nine years in the making so it's a good day for us."
Conversion of another downtown-area railroad bridge to pedestrian use is also planned. But work on renovating the Rock Island Railroad bridge near the Clinton Presidential Library has been delayed several times. When it is complete, it will be the eastern end of a 14-mile hiking-and-biking loop that will have the Big Dam Bridge at the western end.
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