UPDATE 12:08 p.m., Tuesday, May 28
Historic flooding along the Arkansas River that required prompt shutdown of two bridges that span the waterway in the City of Fort Smith are able to be temporarily reopened, according to Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) officials.
Late Monday night, the U.S. Highway 64/71B (Broadway St.) bridge – known locally as the Midland Bridge – and the I-540 river bridge over the Arkansas River were closed to traffic because of anticipated high water levels impacting roadways leading to both structures. The predicted floodwaters did not rise to the level anticipated last night and after a thorough inspection of the structures, ARDOT engineers have determined they can reopen.
The river crossings will remain open unless high water conditions warrant another closure.
The State Highway 59 Bridge at Barling has operated since last night as the only available Arkansas River crossing in Ft. Smith. At this time, the structure is not anticipated to be impacted by this event.
Multiple segments of State Highways are closed in the River Valley with more expected in the coming days. The latest information on highway closures due to high water is available on our Traveler Information site, IDriveArkansas.com. Late-breaking news is published on our Twitter account. Follow us @myARDOT.
FORT SMITH, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Transportation has closed two major bridges and partially closed a third over the Arkansas River at Fort Smith as the waterway surges toward a record crest this week.
Two of the bridges connect Fort Smith and Van Buren, Arkansas — the U.S. Highway 71B bridge (known locally as the Midland Avenue bridge) and the Interstate 540 bridge.
The westbound lane of U.S. 64 between Fort Smith and Moffett, Oklahoma, is also closed.
The closures are almost certain to impact trucking because I-540 is a connector route for trucks going south from I-49 into west central Arkansas.
ARDOT spokesman Danny Straessle said the Highway 59 bridge at Barling downstream from the closed bridges remained open but traffic will have to take a circuitous route to get into Fort Smith because State Highway 22 from Barling into Fort Smith is flooded.
Further downstream, ARDOT has closed the Highway 23 bridge over the Arkansas River.
The next closest bridge downstream that is open is the State Highway 9 bridge at Morrilton, Arkansas.
In all instances, ARDOT said the bridges themselves remain structurally sound; rather it is flooded approaches that required the department to close the bridges.
If someone south of Fort Smith needs to get to I-40, take Highway 255E or up I-49 from U.S. Highway 71.
If someone needs to get into Fort Smith from I-40, they can cross the 59 Bridge and go south down to Highway 255W, which will take them into town.
It is not known how long the bridges will remain closed.
Widespread flooding is occurring in the Tulsa area, where severe thunderstorms are also possible Tuesday. In western Arkansas, the river is expected to crest Wednesday in Van Buren at 42.5 feet (13 meters) — or more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) above its historic crest, which had occurred in 1945.
Forecasters say up to 4 inches of rain is possible this week in the waterlogged areas.