The Tanner Street Bridge provides a connection to the City of Malvern with a more rural part of Hot Spring County. The town of Rockport, located on the Ouachita River near the city of Malvern is an important area to the history of Arkansas. The new bridge was also designed with wider shoulders to accommodate bicycles and pedestrian use.
The first documented toll bridge in the State was built across the Ouachita River along the Military Road in 1846. This bridge eventually washed out a year later. The Tanner Street Bridge was built in 1900 and was in operation for 90 years until it washed away during a flood in 1990. The bridge was under ownership of the county and federal funding was needed to replace it.
In 2003, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FHWA and Arkansas Highway and the Transportation Department (AHTD) completed an environmental analysis to support the replacement of the old bridge using federal aided funding. Some of the environmental concerns included: the avoidance of historic water intake structures and an endangered freshwater mussel in the river.
Context Sensitive Solutions:
It was discovered during the public involvement process and agency scoping, that a local coalition was actively engaged in the redevelopment and enhancement of this area of the Ouachita River for recreational purposes. During the development of the categorical exclusion, the Malvern Parks Commission and the Arkansas Canoe Club were in the process of developing a whitewater park facility in the area and was concerned that the massive boulders in the channel would be altered. Due to these concerns, meetings were held with stakeholders that led to the incorporation of Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) to aid in the completion of the planned projects for the area and to recognize the history and prehistoric importance of the area. At the request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the AHTD contractor left the work roads in place so the work could be conducted on the whitewater park without having to reconstruct the work roads. This request proved to be less environmentally damaging to the Ouachita River.
The Caddo Nation was consulted regarding potential impacts to archeological resources due to its ancestral homeland in this area. After consultation with the Caddo it was indicated that the large novaculite boulders were culturally important to the tribe and measures were taken to avoid them during construction. There was also a commitment to construct a monument on the project site acknowledging the importance of the area to the history of Arkansas and to the region, as well as being a significant area to the Caddo Nation.