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Highway department looking for new owner for Pruitt Bridge

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The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department says it is planning to replace the Pruitt Bridge on state Highway 7 in Newton County and is offering it for sale or donation to any government or entity that demonstrates a willingness to accept title for, preserve the historic integrity of and assume the financial responsibility for the continued maintenance on the structure.

In a letter received by the Newton County Times dated April 24 from Lynn P. Malbrough Division Head, Environmental Division, notes that the bridge was determined eligible to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the AHTD’s 1987 Historic Bridge Inventory.

According to the letter, the highway department will reimburse costs associated with preservation that could include modifications for recreational use, transportation to a new location or preparation of a new location. The cost reimbursement to be determined by the Federal Highway Administration will not exceed 100 percent of the cost of demolition of the bridge, which will be based on the estimate of the department.

The highway department has sought a new owner of the bridge in the past offering it to the county and to the National Park Service. The bridge spans the Buffalo National River.

Several years ago, the Newton County Quorum Court said it would agree to accept the bridge if it could demolish it and sell it for scrap.

The bridge has undergone numerous repairs, most recently a piece of the bridge was repaired after a truck hit one of the side rails.

The existing bridge officially identified at AHTD Bridge #01689 (Pruitt Bridge) was determined eligible to the National Register of Historic Places during the 1987 AHTD Historic Bridge Inventory and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April of 1990.

The Pruitt Bridge was built in 1931 and was fabricated by the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company of Roanoke, Va., and erected by Fred Luttjohann of Topeka, Kan. It has a total length of 375 feet with a center Pennsylvania through truss span of 160 feet, two 80 foot Warren pony truss end spans and a 55 foot girder approach span on the south end.

The Pruitt Bridge is a unique interpretation of the Pennsylvania through truss design not found in any other part of the country. The unique aspect of the bridge’s construction is that the center span’s top chord connects to the top chords of the two approach trusses, which causes the bridge to appear to form one truss, but is in reality functioning as three trusses.

Further highlighting the bridge’s significance is the fact that it is the only experimental design produced for a metal truss bridge by AHTD bridge designers.

There has been no public reports regarding a replacement bridge or its location.

In April 2011, the highway department announced that two other highway bridges on state Highway 7 in northern Newton County, one over Harp Creek and the other over Mill Creek, have been classified as functionally obsolete and would be improved as funds become available. No work has since been done to those bridges.

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