Transportation

Big Dam Ramp

New approach added to iconic pedestrian bridge

After the ribbon was cut on a steamy morning in August, a group of excited cyclists clipped into their pedals and made the inaugural climb up the Big Dam Bridge's southwest approach. That clicking sound was equivalent to a standing ovation as the central Arkansas crowd celebrated the pedestrian bridge's new ramp.

"A lot of people take the Big Dam Bridge for granted, that it's just another structure. But it's not. It's an engineering feat," said Colonel Glen A. Masset, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Little Rock District Commander. "I can tell you that the Big Dam Bridge is an icon of the City of Little Rock and of Pulaski County."

The southwest approach to the Big Dam Bridge is the second phase of a project that began in 2002. The bridge, completed in 2006, is constructed above the Murray Lock and Dam and is billed as the world's longest pedestrian bridge specifically constructed for recreational purposes. In fact, the Society of American Travel Writers named it one of the top 10 bridges to visit in the United States.

Garver provided engineering services for the bridge and its newest access ramp. The new approach involved nearly 1,300 cubic yards of concrete and brings the bridge's total length to approximately 5,270 feet. The new leg features a 325-foot curved steel plate girder unit, MSE approach ramp, cofferdam construction and elevated observation platform.

"When we did the original design for the Big Dam Bridge, [it included] a southwest ramp," said Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines. "We didn't have the money to go forward then with that part, but we asked the Corps and the designers to leave a stub so that we could add it in the future."

The southwest approach provides bicyclists a route to connect with the Garver-designed Two Rivers Pedestrian Bridge without attempting a tight 180-degree turn. Visitors to the bridge now also have a great view of the lock and dam from an upstream vantage point. The bridge is part of the Arkansas River Trail, which attracted attention in June when area leaders signed a memorandum to continue to build, develop, maintain, operate and promote the trail system.

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