BENTON COUTY (KFSM) -- Drivers who cross the bridge on old Highway 68 where Washington and Benton Counties meet will have to start taking an alternate route.
Benton County closed Wildcat Creek Bridge after a report from the state highway department said the bridge was no longer safe for drivers.
Monty Bell has spent nearly his whole life living right next to Wildcat Creek Bridge, and he said he’s seen it deteriorate over the years from big trucks driving over it. Because of that, he said he's OK with driving the extra six miles it now takes to get to Springdale.
“Due to safety issues of the bridge I don’t mind the inconvenience because we’re going to get a safe bridge when everything is said and done,” Bell said.
Bell remembers the previous bridge before the current one was built in 1956.
“When I was a young boy there was a one-lane enclosed bridge here,” said Bell. "In ’56 it was torn down and this bridge replaced it. And so if I make it long enough maybe I can see the third bridge installed here."
Benton County Judge Bob Clinard said people used to use the old Highway 68 and the bridge to get from Siloam Springs to Springdale before the 412 Bypass was built. The state then gave the highway back to Benton County along with several old bridges.
Clinard said the county got approved for the state aid program to help fund replacing the bridge in February of 2014 but said it is taking too long.
“The bridge’s estimated cost is about $1.4 million,” said Clinard. "So it’s a big project and we’ll be going down this line again in two or three years because the Osage bridge just west of this one a mile or two is also going to have to be replaced eventually."
Judge Clinard said they did get notification from the state highway department that bids for the project will go out in December.
The project will begin in January and take six or seven months to complete.
The project will be funded 80 percent from the federal bridge aid replacement funds, 18 percent from the state aid fund and 2 percent from the county.