Truck over posted weight limit brings down Arkansas bridge

(Photo: Yell County Office of Emergency Management)

(Photo: Yell County Office of Emergency Management)

A professional truck driver attempted to cross a wooden bridge in rural Arkansas despite posted weight limit signs last week. Both the truck and the bridge ended up being submerged in the river below.

A Yell County Sheriff’s Office issued a ticket to the driver for violating posted weight limit. His truck was 64,000 pounds over the six ton limit, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The driver told authorities he followed his GPS down the rural dirt road and over the bridge. It is unclear whether he was using a commercial navigation system or relying on a GPS application developed with passenger vehicles in mind.

The driver was carrying a load of processed chicken recently picked up from a Danville, Arkansas facility.

The Dale Bend Bridge, which was slated to celebrate its 90th birthday next year, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2010.

Jeff Gilkey, director of the Yell County Office of Emergency Management, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the bridge would likely cost about $1 million to replace.

According to national bridge inventory data made available on Bridge Reports, a June 2016 inspection found Dale Bend Bridge to be in poor condition, with the structural appraisal and roadway alignment appraisal finding these aspects of the bridge “basically intolerable” and “requiring high priority of corrective action.”

The inspection report recommended replacement of the bridge because of substandard load carrying capacity or substantial bridge roadway geometry issues.

It is unclear if any corrective action was taken after the report was issued, but the bridge’s overall condition has been rated as “poor” during every recorded inspection dating back to February 1991.

The last time a daily traffic report was issued for the bridge, it placed average daily traffic at about 20 vehicles per day, with only 1 percent of that traffic being truck traffic.

Despite inspection data continuously listing the bridge in poor condition, when the bridge was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, its condition was described as “good” by the nominator.

“One of only three Pratt Thru Truss bridges still extant in Yell County, the Petit Jean River Bridge is located on Yell County Road 49 where it crosses the Petit Jean River. The bridge has not been demolished and is still in good condition,” the nomination form reads.  “The Dale Bend Bridge is associated with the development of transportation in Yell County and stands as an example of bridges of the early 20th century.”

That form referred to the bridge as the Petit Jean River Bridge, as opposed to the Dale Bend Bridge, on all references except one in the middle of the narrative.

The process of removing the truck from the river is expected to involve a crane capable of lifting 250 tons and the development of a pad so support vehicles can park nearby. It is unclear where authorities in that process.