Van Buren County Judge Dale James, in his end-of-year letter summarizing 2020, pointed out two large and ongoing projects across two particular roads in the county.
From the letter: “Work continues to improve the system of county roads. Currently, the county is working on two very large grant funded projects ($150,000) on Peyton Mountain Road and Archey Road. Both of the projects are very large and time consuming.”
They are big projects. Taking a ride out on the roads Friday, with James as a tour guide, was a lesson in how a lot of rock, and a lot of work, can turn a creek-bottom into a passable road.
The first stop was Peyton Mountain Road. This was the river-bottom-into-road project. On either side of the road made up of recently-placed gravel, were ditches, of course, but they were deeper than usual. The ditches marked the bank of the stream which at one time made up the low point on the road, James said.
Since then 20,000 tons of gravel, and pipe, have been laid down, and is being laid down, in order to make the road usable year round. In the past, and it didn’t take a lot of imagination to picture this, a heavy rain would leave anyone who counted on the road isolated. Gravel is still being laid, coming from the fairly-near Dennard Quarry. The finish rock which will be used to top the road will come from the Formossa Quarry.
The county owned-or-leased quarries and rock-processing equipment is allowing the work to be done at $1.35 a ton, James said, compared to the $10 or so per ton when commercial quarries are used. (The numbers may be somewhat inaccurate, as it is hard to take notes in a bouncing pickup.)
The creek bottom is the reason the Peyton Mountain Road project was able to be funded by Grant, through the Nature Conservancy with its interest in preserving the waterway which is both nearby and essentially the root cause of the problem, hence the need, for the road project.
From there it was a trip out to Archey Road, putting us well into the northwest of the county. Again, a creek was the problem, but in this case a different situation. After a drive down a long hill, a driver is expected to make a hard right turn and then cross a bridge. The bridge had seen better days, typified by the pieces of bridge broken off into the stream.
This was a different grant source, in this case through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a risk-mitigation grant. When it is completed, which will include fresh gravel on the roadway, a new bridge will be in place. Arkansas Highway and Transportation will provide the bridge as a bridge is being replaced at another project. The “old” bridge being provided will replace the structure on Archey Road.
At the same time, James said, the curve is being redone so it is not a 90 degree turn to get onto the bridge.