Road construction plans of the Arkansas State Highway Department dating as far back as 1995 may finally begin after the State Highway Commission passed an order to widen a segment of Interstate 40 in its March meeting.

The approved action stated that a distance of 13.2 miles on I-40, extending from Highway 65 in Conway to the Pulaski county line would be widened to six lanes.
“As traffic volume continues to increase, the need exists to improve capacity and safety,” the action stated.

David Nilles, public information specialist for the Arkansas State Highway Department, said the project has been approved and the department is proceeding with surveys and plans of construction, “as funds become available.”
Nilles said there’s no specific calendar for construction because progress will depend on the accessibility of funding.

James McKenzie, executive director of Metroplan, the company responsible for the creation of long range transport plans for metro areas, said the Department projected a starting date to be between now and 2013, and only a portion of the 13.2 miles will be able to be funded at this time.

That portion, McKenzie said, will begin at Highway 65 and end at the point of the soon-to-be-constructed southern-most Conway interchange.

“We wish we had the resources to take it all the way,” McKenzie said. “That’s the plan but that’s not what the funding is for.”
McKenzie said if “money stretches far” Mayflower could be involved since the Department has seen the need to relocate and reconstruct the Highway 89 interchange. 

Metroplan’s long range goal created in 1995, McKenzie said, called for at least six interstate lanes for the area.
“For some reasons, Conway is growing a lot and widening to six lanes will help divert traffic in Conway. Traffic growth between Conway and Pulaski County has gone up significantly in the last decade and a half,” McKenzie said. “As Conway begins to grow into the second metropolitan job area, commuting flow is too much for a four-lane interstate. I-40 is also a major truck route. With the two, four lanes is not sufficient and we identified that some time ago.”

Nilles said a proposal of this magnitude will cover several years for construction, and environmental design another two years.

The project is said to cost about $36 million.

Upcoming construction plans for Arkansas roads for the next five years can be found on the Arkansas State Highway Department’s Web site at www.arkansashighways.com.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net)