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The biggest dam bridge of all

A bridge of dreams in Little Rock, Arkansas, host city for the National Trails Symposium in 2008.
From the New Years 2007 American Trails Magazine

The project won a 2007 Exemplary Human Environment Initiatives Award from the Federal Highway Administration.
2008 Events-- The Big Dam Bridge: Ride it, Run it, Walk it, Live it

By John J. Crumm, AICP and Gerard P. Santoro, AICP

photo of lake and bridge from the air

The 4,226 foot bridge over the Corps of Engineers' Murray Lock and Dam (click to enlarge)

It was Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines that came up with a name for the bridge. When it was uncertain to officials whether they'd be able to build the bridge, the Judge vowed, "We're going to build that dam bridge," and the name, which officially became "the Big Dam Bridge," stuck.

Comprising 4,226 linear feet, the bridge over the Corps of Engineers' Murray Lock and Dam is the longest bridge built specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists in the world (the longest in the United States is the Chain of Rocks Bridge on the north edge of St. Louis, Missouri at 5,350 linear feet, but it was originally a highway bridge).

Some of the more impressive design aspects of the Big Dam Bridge include girders that curve up to a 82.3 meter radius and a substructure designed to withstand winds up to 160.93 kmph. Built with a 14-foot-wide deck, the bridge is capable of handling pedestrian and bicycle traffic and it was also built with gentle slopes to assure compliance with Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.

Photo of bicyclists crossing bridge

Opening the "Big Dam Bridge" in Little Rock, Arkansas

The bridge connects about 17 miles of trail in the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock, bridging the Arkansas River from Little Rock's Murray Park to North Little Rock's Cooks Landing.

Also known as "Buddy's Bridge", Judge Villines was the visionary and pushing force behind the Big Dam Bridge, a lasting legacy for this larger than life southern politician.

"Bridges connect people and places. This one will attract people and be good for economic growth. Plus," says the Judge, "our culture has to change its ways. We have to be healthier."

And that may just be the most spectacular feature of the bridge— the way it is bringing people together. Thousands of people gathered on September 30th, 2006 for the openning ceremonies and 5k footrace, and daily walkers, runners, and bicyclists and families from all walks of life can be seen enjoying the bridge.

Bridge wins 2007 award for "Exemplary Human Environment Initiatives"

photo of long steep bridge rising


This is the first year of a Federal Highway Administration program to recognize and publicize transportation initiatives that make our transportation system work better for the people who use it. One of the 2007 winners is the Pulaski County Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge ("Big Dam Bridge").

The construction of the trail bridge over the Murray Lock and Dam in the Little Rock area connects trails on both sides of the river. It is the longest bridge in the country built specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists. The bridge is one of the exciting projects that will be featured at the National Trails Symposium when it is held in Little Rock, Arkansas, November 15-18, 2008.

The goal of the transportation awards program are:

  • Encouraging people to be more physically active in their modes of travel
  • Making changes to the transportation infrastructure
  • Improving how we plan and implement changes to transportation processes
  • Educating people about human centered transportation
  • Using technology in creative ways

"It truly is a gift to every member of our community," Anne Woker, of Little Rock says about the bridge, "no matter how old or young, rich or poor, fit, or physically challenged... and, it is a gift that will keep giving to each of us in our lifetimes and those to come. Wow, I love that dam bridge!"

Speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony in September, Judge Villines furthered that notion, "This bridge, like the very early bridges, connects people and places. Spanning this river that would divide us, it connects us in a very human way.

We will bring our families and our friends here, and we will meet other families and make new friends. We will be better and our community will be better for the experience. Let this be a "BRIDGE TO FRIENDSHIP AND COMMUNITY."

See more photos and details at


“Our spirits will be renewed as we gaze upon the beauty before us, over this river whose waters have come and passed this way for thousands of years, connecting us to our history— our past, our present and our future. Our future, our history yet to be written. We can be what we choose to be. If we can conceive it, we can achieve it! For all things are possible, if we only believe!

Let this be a BRIDGE OF DREAMS.”

—Judge Buddy Villines


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