Located northeast of Little Rock, the Judsonia Bridge, spanning the Little Red River, is one of the last treasures left in the State of Arkansas, and one that makes the small community of Judsonia (near Searcy) proud to have as one of its important icons. Built in 1924, the bridge is almost 400 feet long and is one of the structures that will never be found to have such unique features. The main span is 265 feet long and features a subdivided Warren swing span that is built like a cantilever truss. This was a rarity in bridge construction back in those days, together with a 79 foot long Pratt through truss approach span and a 49-foot subdivided Warren pony truss span, whose center panel reveals an A-frame. A close description of the bridge can be found here.
The future of the bridge was in doubt, when it was closed to traffic in 2007 because of a center floor beam. However, as significant as the bridge is to Judsonia and to the state of Arkansas, the state DOT began a drive to rehabilitate the bridge so that the structure, the last surviving example of one built by R.L. Gaster of Little Rock and the only link between Judsonia and Kensett, was reopened to traffic. Despite the costs and the length of time taken to fix the bridge- almost six years to be exact- the bridge was reopened to traffic last Easter, on weight and height restrictions. Cars not exceeding three tons can now use the bridge, together with pedestrians and cyclists, while truckers can take advantage of other options two miles to the west, using the US 67 expressway.
The Judsonia Bridge is the best example of how a bridge can be fixed even if a broken beam is revealed. It also shows that a truss bridge does not necessarily have to fail if a beam is missing or a pinned connection is broken. All it takes is a small amount of money to fix the bridge and the structure is open to traffic again. And even if people claim that this fix will prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years, one can still keep the structure in tact and in use if maintained properly. It just takes a small amount of money to get the job done (right).