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Cotter "Rainbow Bridge" Rededication Ceremonies are Planned for Friday, Sept. 24
September 2004

Harrison Daily Times

Known throughout the Ozarks as the "Rainbow Bridge," the span over the White River originally opened with great fanfare on Nov. 11, 1930. The $500,000 price tag at the time made it the largest public works project in the region until Norfork and Bull Shoals Dams were built more than a decade later.

A $6.3 million restoration project on the 74-year-old bridge closed it to traffic in early 2002, when the Hardy Construction Company of Maumelle started restoration work. The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department secured federal funding for 80 percent of the restoration costs.

The old bridge was bypassed by a new section of U.S. 62/412 more than a decade ago, but not before the unique structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and named a national landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Cotter crowded decades of history into its first few years of existence. The town sprang to life when the railroad was extended up the White River (1902-05). Cotter was quickly established near the railroad bridge. The Post Office was opened in 1903 and the town was incorporated the following year. During the "boom" era, the town's population doubled with each passing year.

The steel railway trestle was built and used for some 25 years before the "Rainbow Arch" span opened to highway traffic. Wagons, horses, automobiles and pedestrians were floated across the river by ferryboat prior to 1930.

James B. Marsh of Iowa patented the rainbow arch design in 1912, and the company designed the 1,850-foot bridge for the Arkansas Highway Department in the late 1920s.

For many years the bridge, with its distinctive five archways, plus a smaller approach arch, did not have an official name. But, local citizens decided to honor the Baxter County judge who worked so hard to secure the project. Officially, it is the R.M. Ruthven Rainbow Arch Bridge.

A large number of visitors and public officials are expected to attend this special event. Following opening ceremonies at Big Spring Park, below the bridge, a brief observance will be conducted on the bridge. Entertainment and food will be available in the park throughout the afternoon.

The official reopening of the bridge coincides with Cotter's annual Fall Festival, now in its fifth year. "Art, Antiques and Architecture - A Cotter Open House" will be the theme of the weekend festivities. Saturday's schedule includes a parade at 10 a.m.

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