LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Arkansas highway officials on Wednesday asked drivers in Little Rock to be patient during the holidays with road construction delays as they continue a $125 million overhaul of the state’s busiest interchange.
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Director Scott Bennett said congestion on the Interstate 430 and Interstate 630 interchange will not get worse as the holidays approach, but that drivers should expect delays.
"We don’t think it will be a lot better," Bennett said during a news conference at the department office. "We just continue to ask people to be patient and know that it may take you a little bit of extra time."
Bennett announced that the interchange would now be called the "Big Rock" interchange after a giant rock formation that was found during the project. Workers had to remove a small portion of the rock, but were able to design mostly around it.
The highway department has been working on the interchange improvements since 2009, and it’s expected to be completed in 2014. The interchange is located near some of the city’s busiest shopping centers in west Little Rock.
The project, funded by a combination of state and federal money, is aimed at improving traffic flow between the two interstates. The interchange opened in 1977, before most of the growth in west Little Rock. Both interstates carry about 100,000 vehicles a day.
The growth west of the interchange has caused congestion over the years, and the department said it hopes the improvements will ease those backups. For example, the west side of I-630 now effectively ends at a stoplight at one of the city’s busiest roads. The project will change that to an overpass, Bennett said.
The project will also include other changes, such as flyover ramps and elevated lanes, the department said.
The interchange work comes as the state prepares for more extensive highway construction projects around the state. Voters last week approved renewing a $575 million bond issue to pay for repairing interstates, and the department expects to begin work on those projects by early 2013.