Arkansas bridge to be demolished after court’s ruling
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court cleared the way for an 88-year-old bridge to be demolished, after supporters spent years trying to save it.
The court’s 6-1 decision dismissed an appeal Thursday to save the White River Bridge in Clarendon, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Now, the state’s Department of Transportation is ready to establish a demolition timeline within four weeks, agency spokesman Danny Straessle said.
The bridge and its replacement are in wildlife sanctuaries on the White and Cache rivers, which are overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The transportation department has agreed to restore the site’s natural topography and re-establish native hardwood trees after the demolition.
Meanwhile, supporters of the bridge have been rallying to preserve and adapt it for cyclists and pedestrians.
“It’s just disappointing that this beautiful bridge may have to come down now,” said Clarendon Mayor James Stinson III. “There’s just no reason for it.”
The case went to the state supreme court after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza dismissed a lawsuit in July to block the bridge’s destruction. The mayor’s wife was one of eight plaintiffs who sued the DOT in an effort to stop the demolition
The appeal to the high court argued that the department’s $10.8 million contract to demolish the bridge amounted to an illegal exaction not protected by sovereign immunity. But the court’s majority rejected that argument and affirmed Piazza’s ruling Thursday, stating that the preservationists’ argument is not sufficient to establish a claim for an illegal exaction.
Justice Josephine “Jo” Hart, the sole dissenting justice, decried the decision.
“According to the taxpayers, we are about to spend $10.8 million to blow up a piece of our state’s history that does not need to be blown up,” Hart said.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com