The Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that the long-awaited widening of I-40 from Conway to I-430 received a grant of $3.750 million from the Federal Highway Administration.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said the project would "reduce congestion and emissions and improve safety and economic development.

Investments like these are immediate and long-lasting and will help create jobs."

Bidding on the first phase of the project — about eight miles beginning at the Highway 65 intersection — will begin in January, said Glenn Bolick, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Highways and Transportation.

The total cost of the 20-mile-long project is expected to exceed $100 million, Bolick said.

The number of vehicles increases the closer traffic gets to North Little Rock, with an estimated 80,000 vehicles traveling daily to the I-40 to I-430 interchange.

"That’s a lot of vehicles," Bolick said.

Conway Mayor Tab Townsell said on Wednesday that "This is really great news, especially for those who drive back and forth every day. Traffic is generally heavy, even when it isn’t rush hour.

"This announcement is more evidence that the highway department is directing lots of resources to Conway and Faulkner County because of our tremendous growth," Townsell said.

"We’ve known this project has been planned, as well as others, including construction of the Gold Creek interchange and the Highway 25 extension to Beaverfork Lake at Friendship Road," Townsell said.

Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, said: "The widening of I-40 will be a huge project unlike anything our community has seen since the initial construction of I-40.

"This will increase transportation efficiency throughout the metro area.

"The new interchange in the southern end of town — the Gold Creek interchange — will provide better access to the technology park and will be the southern terminus of the Western Loop, a project some years into the future," Lacy said.

According to a legal notice in Sunday’s edition of the Log Cabin Democrat, a public input session for the Conway Western Arterial Loop is set for 4:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Ellen Smith Elementary School cafeteria at South Donaghey and Favre Lane in Conway.

The interchange will be located along I-40 directly south of the Lawrence Landing overpass at mile 132. The design also includes one mile of the Conway Loop extending westward from Highway 365 to the Sturgis Road/Scenic Hill intersection.

Information on right-of-way appraisal and acquisition procedures will be available at the hearing.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at and 505-1234.)