Mayor Tab Townsell announced Wednesday that, after more than 14 years with little progress, the City of Conway has received the federal go-ahead on the Conway Western Loop project. 

The loop, once named the Conway Bypass, would provide more Interstate 40 access to areas of Conway through a series of interchanges, roads and bridges. 

A Record of Decision was signed by the Federal Highway Administration, approving the Federal Environmental Impact Statement, which contains the approved alternative route and centerline for the loop.

“Now, it’s just a matter of money,” Townsell, said.

Though the entire loop was approved, the project will be approached in phases, the first being the construction of an Interstate 40 interchange on the south end of town.

“We see southern Conway as a growth area. Part of it is associated with the technology park and Hewlett-Packard being in that area,” Townsell said. “This interchange and loop roadway will bring greater access.”

The $30 million interchange will ultimately cost the city $5 million. 

The Arkansas Highway Department has committed to a 50/50 split under a Transportation Improvement Program. 

The department will pay $15 million under the condition that the city pay for half. 

Thanks to a $10 million 2008 acquisition of a grant under the leadership of Speaker of the House Robbie Wills and Sen. Gilbert Baker and the rest of Conway state legislative delegation, Townsell said, the city will pay $5 million for a $30 million project.

“Federal monies can now be spent on engineering, right of way acquisition, and construction of the Conway Western Loop,” Townsell said in an e-mail.

Townsell said the loop’s two projected end points, the southern interchange and the conceptual interchange on the north side of town at Highway 64, are the “major cost sections of the loop” and are the two components that will likely see Federal funding.

As for the connecting piece, Townsell said, “That will probably have to be up to the city of Conway, and Faulkner County assisting us if they can.”

Townsell said it is his belief that the Arkansas Highway Department may assist in the cost of the northern interchange near Highway 64, “when the demand calls for it.”

“It’s doubtful but we can certainly try, but between those two points, I’m not sure we’d convince them to help us pay for it,” Townsell said.

The Conway Western Loop, in its entirety, would begin at an interchange on the north side of town, near Highway 64 and Hogan Lane, and end at the attachment point, the southern Conway interchange. 

(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. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)