NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Facing a deadline to make a decision, the Pulaski County Quorum Court voted in favor of moving the Broadway Bridge project forward.
The Quorum Court voted 10 to 5, specifically in favor of spending $20 million as part of the county's share of the overall cost for the new bridge. The decision came after about 15 concerned citizens weighed in and most of them were actually against this spending.
"I still feel that there are needs in this area and our community that can be better used by using the $20 million for that," June Freeman said.
Freeman and some others felt the county should focus this $20 million on the basics, like road maintenance and fixing current problems. They had some support on the quorum court from members, but ultimately the ten voting in favor of a new Broadway Bridge feel it's a strong community investment in the long-term.
"I believe people will come just to see America's bridge, and I believe as they do that they will bring in tourism, industry will come in," said District 9 Member Wilma Walker.
Other members voting in favor said that their constituents were on board with this kind of investment, and they feel it's a safer option.
The bridge will have basket-handle arches, according to County Judge Buddy Vilines. He said the county will pay the $20 million over a four-year period. Vilines said the county is sharing the total $79 million price tag with the state and federal government.
Thursday's meeting came after a letter from the state highway department to the county, saying they had to act Thursday night or the project could lose millions of dollars.
Re-building the 90-year-old bridge has been on the table for about two years, and deterioration is causing a rise in maintenance costs and safety concerns.
The Broadway Bridge is a busy one. Driver Deaundrea Lewis drives over the bridge every morning because she has to go to school. While she doesn't avoid the aging bridge, she is concerned about the safety of it.
"I mean you'll feel a little bit more safer about driving over the bridge if you know it just got fixed," she explained.
Wilbur Baucom is a lifelong resident of North Little Rock, and he said he really does feel unsafe. And, a walk across the bridge is even more unnerving then just the drive.
"You can see the gaps, and like I said, the bridge is old. Everybody knows the bridge is old. Anybody from North Little Rock knows that bridge needs to be replaced," he said.
Randy Davidson is a business owner in North Little Rock who drives across the Broadway Bridge a few times a week. He said he feels safe because it's built well, but acknowledged that it needs repairs.
"It's probably got some problems in it that maybe needs to be addressed," he added, hoping that the bridge would be spared from its demise.
Randy Ort with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department said they can build an attractive and functioning bridge for $58 million. Anything more, he said, would waste taxpayer dollars.
"We have said all along, if somebody wants something else done, they simply need to help with the financing part of it."
Again it's use it or lose it when it comes to federal bridge funds for the Broadway Bridge.
At Thursday's meeting, THV 11 will find out if Pulaski County is willing to share the costs at a price tag of $20 million in addition to the Highway Department's $58 million dollar funding.
The bridge, which was built 90 years ago, is deteriorating in places, and causing a rise in maintenance costs and safety concerns.