Heflin Plaza: New bridge construction underway

The bridge between Ouachita’s main campus and North campus is set to be torn down and a new bridge to be built by the end of the spring 2010 semester.

While the bridge is still safe for travel, the decision was made to replace it to allow for future growth that will happen on North campus. It will better connect the Student Village and Sturgis Physical Education Center to the main campus, according to Brett Powell, vice president for administrative services.

“Aesthetically it [the new bridge] will be done to make that connection,” Powell said. “The other thing is the existing bridge is old and not very attractive. It has some issues that we would need to correct and repairs that need to be done. So, rather than spending the money to correct that on the old bridge, we’re building a new one.”

Ouachita contracted the job to Kinco Construction and the new bridge is set to be roughly 40 feet west of the existing bridge. There are plans to also build a plaza at the end of the bridge.

“The whole area is going to be called Heflin Plaza when they get done,” Powell said. “The actual plaza is what’s going to be on the North side of the bridge where Ernest-Bailey is now.”

The plaza and bridge area are going to be called the Heflin Plaza because this project was made possible because of a donation by the Heflin family. The donation was made in memory of former Ouachita Board of Trustees Chairman Johnny Heflin and in honor of his wife Sharon and their family, Jay and Andrea Heflin and Marc and Billie Heflin.

“There were some plans many years ago to do a student center and some other things in a building that would span across the ravine and I think Mr. Hefflin had an interest in doing that,” Powell said. “Since that building is not going to be done, it made sense to name the bridge in his honor because he was interested in that area.”

Currently, a dirt roadway has been cleared below the bridge to move materials and machinery. However, when the project is completed, that area is expected to look like it did before construction started. Plans for how to dispose of the old bridge are already under discussion.

“A small school district wants the old bridge for a crossing near their school facility, but cost of removal for saving it may outweigh the cost of building a new one at their site,” said John Hardman, director of Physical Plant. “If the school district does not pay for removal, it will be taken down and sold for scrap.”

As part of the building plans, traffic on Campus Drive in front of Walker Conference Center will need to be rerouted for a time to allow for safe building of the South side of the bridge.

“It shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience,” Powell said. “We tried to time it there so we would have as little time as possible when students are on campus and they can do some of the work while everybody is gone and it won’t disrupt traffic as much.”

This time of traffic rerouting will start on Monday, Nov. 23, two days before Thanksgiving break, and end around Dec. 31.

“We’re going to put up lots of signage to make sure everybody understands that it’s different,” Powell said. “And it’s going to add a little bit to the parking problem [on the South side of campus] because we’re going to lose all of the parking beside Hickingbotham and Lile. We’ll just have to be more understanding and we may have to look harder for parking spaces.”

During this time. the piers that will support the bridge will be built into the ground and there will be changes made to the parking lot in front of Walker Conference Center.

“Where the new bridge comes out, students walking across the bridge and then across the street would come out directly in that parking lot if we leave it like it is,” Powell said. “So, we’re going to change that parking lot up a little bit and we’ll do that while we have traffic rerouted so we only have to do it one time.”

The new bridge is expected to be complete by the end of March. The old bridge will not be torn down until the new one is built, so students will not be inconvenienced on their way to and from classes.

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