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Oldest bridge in Arkansas and ‘Sling Blade’ symbol will undergo historic renovation



Saline County, Arkansas – The Old River Bridge in central Arkansas, which was featured in the well-known 1996 film “Sling Blade,” has undergone renovations and will shortly be put back in use.

Since the early 1800s, when the first inhabitants came to the county, the Saline County bridge has been in continuous operation for more than a century.

“William Lockhart, who in 1891, settled here in Saline County and actually built a bridge in 1891,” said county Judge Matt Brumley. “That original bridge will be going back into its original location which I am told will be the oldest bridge in the state of Arkansas to be in its original location.”

According to Brumley, this is a section of the 60-mile-long Southwest Trail Project, which connects the bathhouse row in Hot Springs to Little Rock Central High School.

The bridge was demolished in 2018.

“Because of some federal grant money that we were able to enjoy, we were able to send that bridge off and get it refurbished,” said Brumley. “All the original pieces that we could refurbish, there have been some replacements as you can imagine for an 1891 bridge and so we have received that bridge back.”

County authorities will have a pre-construction bid meeting for the project on Thursday to reinstall the bridge.

“They will be able to come to the Saline County Road Department. They will actually be able to lay eyes on the bridge as it lays there now,” said Brumley. “We are excited about how many contractors may show up. We will be able to put a real number very soon on how much it is going to cost to put that across the Saline River.”

Around 200 employees are anticipated to be created by this construction project, and after it is finished, the Southwest Trail Project is expected to bring in around $30 million annually for three counties, with Saline County alone bringing in about $7 million, according to Brumley.

“This is to be able to enhance the communities that we live in, increase jobs and economic development, and even – more importantly – being able to get outside with families and people you care about and exercise,” said Brumley.

The pre-construction bid meeting will take place at the Saline County Road Department, located at 5555 Cynamide Road in Benton, at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

On August 30, bidding will be available until 2:00 p.m.

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