PINETOP-LAKESIDE – On Thursday, the long-awaited completed project of the Billy Creek Pedestrian Bridge on Porter Mountain Road was realized as town officials and community members assembled safely on the bridge for a ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication. The new bridge, built along side the old bridge, increases pedestrian safety for Blue Ridge students and the community.

Billy Creek Pedestrian Bridge bridges the pedestrian gap

Cutting the ribbon on the completed Billy Creek Pedestrian Bridge, Pinetop-Lakeside Mayor Stephanie Irwin, Director of Public Works Matt Patterson, contractor Daniel Rawlings, Blue Ridge School Superintendent Michael Wright and others applaud the safety the bridge offers to students and the PTLS community.

Cutting the ribbon jointly were Pinetop-Lakeside Mayor Stephanie Irwin, Blue Ridge Unified School District Superintendent Michael Wright and Daniel Rawlings of Rawlings Specialty Contracting. Each, along with Public Works Director Matt Patterson, addressed community members on the significance of the bridge.

Welcoming everyone, Irwin acknowledged that as far back as 2010, when the Blue Ridge Porter Mountain Campus opened, concerns arose regarding the safety of the students who were walking and from school.

“The town convened a work group that included Navajo County, the Blue Ridge Unified School District (BRUSD), the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) to study and address this safety issue,” said Irwin. “For the last ten years the town worked in conjunction with these entities to secure funding for this project and in 2018, the town coordinated a Highway User Revenue Fund — or HURF — exchange with ADOT, which allowed the town to manage this project.

Irwin said the town issued an invitation to bid on Aug. 28, 2019, and Rawlings Specialty Contracting was the only bid they received. Rawlings was awarded the contract on Sept. 20, 2019, for $1.3 million.

“I believe that was a small price to pay to help ensure the safety of our young students and all pedestrians who now use this bridge,” said Irwin.

Wright said, “It’s fitting we’re gathered here today to celebrate the completion of a bridge. Never before have bridges been more important! Metaphorically speaking, bridges help connect people from all walks of life; they serve the rich and poor and people from all backgrounds. Of course, bridges are especially important today when people seem so divided.

“Thank you all for providing a safe path for our kids on their way to and from school.”

Rawlings and Patterson both acknowledged the importance of the project and how surprised people were to discover the bridge was not one to drive upon, but was being built along side the 1970 roadway bridge which was barely able to accommodate two lanes of traffic.

Rawlings said when people learned it was a pedestrian bridge, they were even more excited.

It was this past July 23 when many gathered or drove by the bridge site and watched the construction project actually coming together. It was at that time many realized it was not a bridge replacement. As the huge steel structures dangled in mid-air, being turned for placement, they were secured by the cables of a 300-ton crane. The crane was brought in specifically for this project on a semi truck. The crane placed the structures alongside the existing highway bridge. The 12-foot wide, 164-foot steel bridge was comprised of three sections — two of which had to be bolted together for a total of 122 feet before they were installed — along with the final section of 42 feet.

Not that anyone on the Mountain would entertain such a thought, but a bit of interesting trivia about the new rustic bridge is that it is graffiti proof. One of the project workers told the Independent in July that should someone place graffiti on the bridge, as has happened in many places before, with the use of just a wire brush, followed by water, the steel bridge returns to its original state.

Patterson had predicted at the February budget meeting that the project would be completed by fall. The bridge is located by State Route 260 and Porter Mountain Road near Navopache Electric Cooperative.

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Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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