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Junction Bridge provides new trail link across Arkansas River

Junction Bridge, a backdrop to both Little Rock and North Little Rock’s skylines for over 100 years, has been transformed into a pedestrian bridge featued at the 2008 National Trails Symposium.

From Pulaski County Facilities Board

photo of bridge

Junction Bridge prior to construction

The long-awaited completion of the renovation of the Junction Railroad Bridge converting it to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge took place May 17, 2008. Access to the bridge is by a walkway (handicap accessible) directly behind the River Market pavilion on the Little Rock side and from Washington Street near Alltel Arena on the North Little Rock side. A ceremonial “Tying Our Cities Together” was accomplished with two 900 foot lengths of ribbon reaching from each end of the bridge. Local school groups brought the ribbon together at the center of the bridge for a symbolic tying of the cities.

The Junction Bridge was constructed in 1884 as the primary railroad bridge connecting the northern and southern railway lines. In 1985, the then-owners of the bridge, Union Pacific closed the bridge to rail traffic and in 1999 ceded the bridge to the City of Little Rock. Through an inter-local agreement the bridge was leased for 99 years to the Pulaski County Bridges Facilities Board for the purpose of developing the pedestrian/bicycle bridge. After the planning for the conversion of the bridge into a pedestrian and bicycle venue for public use, construction was begun in 2007. The total project cost with funding provided by local, state and federal transportation funds is $5,800,000.

photo of bridge

Concrete pour

The bridge is believed to be the only “lift span” bridge that has been converted to a pedestrian/bicycle bridge in the United States. The “lift span” is locked into place in a raised position to allow for uninterrupted barge traffic on the river. Visitors to the bridge may transverse the entire length of the structure by riding elevators up to and down from the 360 foot (length) lift span. The overall length of the bridge is 1,800 feet.

For the comfort of the visitors to the bridge, there are benches and other amenities. Areas which have been modernized on the structure are painted blue. The original paint is being left on the bridge to signify its age. The bridge will be lighted at night by special “up-lighting” on the beams.

McClelland Engineers was the project engineering firm, and May Construction was the general contractor. Both are headquartered in Little Rock.

photo of bridge

Placement of lift span support beams

 

Eighty percent of the funding for the renovation of the Junction Bridge was provided by grants from the Federal Transportation budget through the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. The remaining twenty percent match was provided by road and bridge funds of the Cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock as well as Pulaski County. The Junction Bridge will be open to the public during Riverfest. At a later date the south end will be closed for the excavation of Little Rock’s namesake, La Petite Roche, which will open up vistas

to the river from the park . Also during this time, an extension bridge and landscaping will complete the entrance to the Junction Bridge from the south. The Junction Bridge will be available for private party events. Information on rentals will be released at a later date.

The Junction Bridge is a component of the Six Bridges Plan. In 1999, the UALR Donaghey Project for Urban Studies and Design developed the Six Bridges Framework Plan. The Six Bridges, from west to east are: Baring Cross Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Main Street Bridge, Junction Bridge, I-30 Bridge, and Rock Island Bridge. In 2002, the Pulaski County Bridge Public Facilities Board was established for the purpose of overseeing the development, operation, and maintenance of these bridges.

Junction Bridge Fact Sheet

Junction Bridge has served as a backdrop to both Little Rock and North Little Rock’s skylines for over 100 years. Today, this vital landmark has been transformed into a pedestrian bridge that will serve as one of the state’s premiere “destinations” for both tourists and locals to view the Arkansas River and discover the heart of Central Arkansas’ flourishing activities.

History:
• Originally constructed in 1884 as a railroad bridge by the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad.
• Originally constructed to connect the Little Rock and Fort Smith rail line with the Little Rock, Mississippi River and Texas railway.
• Constructed with lift span to raise 32 feet to accommodate passing river traffic.
• Since 1985, Junction Bridge has not operated in any capacity.
(see photo A1)
• In June 2007, MAY Construction, in conjunction with McClelland Engineers, began the Junction Bridge Pedestrian Conversion Project. (see photo A2)

Six Bridges Plan:
• In 1999, the UALR Donaghey Project for Urban Studies and Design developed a report, “The Six Bridges Framework Plan”
• This plan noted that the Six Bridges in the downtown area could serve as a catalyst for bringing people, business, tourism and civic pride
• The Six Bridges, west to east, include: Baring Cross Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Main Street Bridge, Junction Bridge, I-30 Bridge and Rock Island Bridge (Presidential Bridge)
• In 2002, the Pulaski County Bridge Public Facilities Board was established for the purpose of overseeing the development, operation and maintenance of these bridges.

Funding:
• Eight percent of the funding for the Junction Bridge renovation was provided by grants from the Federal Transportation budget through the Arkansas Transportation Department.
• The Road and Bridge funds of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County provided a 20 percent match.

Junction Bridge Statistics:
• 1,800 feet long including North Little Rock bank
• 1,500 feet elevated; North Little Rock ramp 300 feet
• Lift span is 360 feet long
• Lift span is now raised 38 feet above the fixed bridge span
• Lift span weighs more than 2 million pounds
• Bridge entrances on Washington Street in North Little Rock and Riverfront Park in Little Rock
• North Little Rock entrance has ADA approved sidewalks

Construction/Conversion:
• For alignment purposes the lift span had to be raised an additional 6 feet. The Bridge’s lift span had previously never been raised to this height. Once the span was lifted, support beams were installed using cranes operating from a barge. (see photo A3, A4, A5)
• The decking was created using a series of reinforced steel beams built over the existing railroad beams. (see photo A6)
• Once decking was secured and stable the concrete was poured. (see photo A7, A8) Over 1,000 feet of hose was used to pump the concrete from the North Little Rock side across the bridge. (see photo A9)
• Elevators were installed on both ends of the lift span to accommodate pedestrians, cycling traffic and meets ADA standards. (see photo A10)
• Hand rails were installed lining both side of the Junction Bridge.

Construction Safety:
• Consulted with the Coast Guard, Corp of Engineers, OSHA
• Safety netting installed under bridge as a precautionary measure and to prohibit any falling debris from entering Arkansas River. (see photo A11)
• During construction, a First Aid/CPR/AED certified person and boat were readily available at all times.

Significance:
• Only pedestrian bridge in the US with a lift span

Future of the Bridge:
• Junction Bridge was re-designed to accommodate pedestrian and cycling traffic.
• The bridge will be available to reserve for private parties and events.
• At a later date, the south end will close for excavation of Little Rock’s namesake, La Petite Roche. After excavation, an extension bridge and landscaping will complete the entrance to the Junction Bridge. 

drawing of bridge and park

Artist's rendering of the completed bridge and park improvements along the Arkansas River

 

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