Construction along Interstate 40 in Faulkner County is in full swing, and although there are inevitable delays in traffic, most work is going as scheduled.
Conway Fire Chief Bart Castleberry, who coordinated area emergency representatives before construction began, said that despite some incidents, the concentrated efforts of police, fire and medical personnel have kept things running smoothly overall.
The $100 million project will widen from four to six lanes 20 miles of Interstate from U.S. 65 through Conway to I-430. The first phase of construction is 8.2 miles beginning at the Highway 65 intersection, ending near the overpass over Lake Conway. The cost of this phase is estimated at $45 million with completion in 2014.
The next phase will be from Palarm Creek west for almost five miles; the next section four-plus
miles from Palarm Creek to Highway 365. That will leave almost six miles to complete from Highway 365 to I-430.
What has been a bonus for contractor Mid-South Pavers is the small number of bad weather days, which has kept construction on schedule.
After a first meeting of emergency departments, a fatality wreck involving a Greenbrier child placed all of them in action. A second meeting to fix any problems emergency vehicles had in getting to wrecked cars was called and included members of the Faukner County Road Department as well as the contractor and city, county and state police and fire representatives.
Cpt. Keith Eremea of the state police had been coordinating the combined efforts along with Castleberry, but his request for cameras to place at the beginning and ending of construction areas was denied.
Another fight has happened over the speed limit. The Arkansas Highway Department revealed that it will keep the speed limit at 70 miles per hour in construction zones, despite pleas from several Faulkner County officials to reduce the speed limit.
Construction that slows traffic to one lane occurs in the eastbound lane from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. weekdays and in the westbound lane from 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Lane closures also will occur from 11 p.m. Fridays to 9 a.m. Saturdays, but there will be no lane closures on Sundays. Construction on the widening will take place on the other side of the barricades. Trees have been taken down on the inside of the barriers, and once construction is completed, the affected area will be complete concrete from one set of lanes to the other.