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Long Winter Storm Leaves Poinsett County Bridges In Bad Shape

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(Poinsett County, AR) Nice weather has a way of making us forget the problems caused by this past winter's ice storm.

But drivers in Arkansas still have plenty of reminders on local roads in the form of potholes.

The problem has local governments pressing the state to move quickly to fix the problems.

People who live near the New Madrid Fault in Poinsett County, Ark., don't have to wait for an earthquake to get rattled.

All it takes is a drive on the Highway 118 bridge north of Tyronza.

Della Smith calls the bridge a nightmare.

"It's awful. You have to go about five, ten miles an hour just to be able to go across it without tearing up your car," said Smith.

The Highway 118 bridge, like hundreds in Arkansas, is in bad shape after being subjected to weeks of ice and snow.

Ten miles away in Lepanto, the town's two main bridges sound like a washboard.

They were opened in the late 1940s and were showing their age long before this winter's ice storm left them full of potholes and ruts.

Mayor Steve Jernigan said he's been getting an earful from people about how dangerous the bridges are to travel.

"'Do something about those bridges, they're horrible.' Well, all I can do is contact the people that's over the bridges," said Mayor Jernigan.

He's referring to the Arkansas Highway Department, which told Mayor Jernigan to be patient.

"Basically the State says they're doing all they can. They just don't have a lot of money for maintenance and repairs. But they're just kind of hanging on," said Mayor Jernigan.

The mayor said there's nonstop commercial traffic and farm equipment tearing up the town's bridges and the state's patchwork.

"They'll come in and do what they can and then it just breaks back up," the mayor said.

David Sims works at a local body shop and avoids the Lepanto bridges whenever possible.

"Feels like your vehicle's about to fall apart when you go across them," said Sims.

The mayor wants the state to completely replace the bridges and put load restrictions on them.

The state says the bridges may look bad, but inspectors have determined they are still safe enough for heavy truck traffic.


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