Arkansas Highway Commission begins process of creating Interstate 555

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 186 views 

The Arkansas Highway Commission approved Wednesday (Dec. 2) a Minute Order that designates 44 miles of U.S. Highway 63 in northeast Arkansas, from Interstate 55 in Crittenden County to U.S. Highway 49 in Jonesboro, as Interstate 555.

The highway has been signed as “Future I-555” for almost 15 years. The designation is contingent upon Congress approving the federal Highway authorization bill, titled Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which was approved by the Senate and House conference committee Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, served on the conference committee. Upon Congress’ approval, the bill will go to the President’s desk for his signature, which is expected to occur before the end of the year.

Major improvements to U.S. Highway 63 began in the early 1970s in the form of a Jonesboro bypass project. During the last 40 years more than $250 million dollars were spent to bring the highway up to interstate standards, state highway officials said. The last requirement was to build a two-lane frontage road across the St. Francis River floodway, estimated to cost more than $33 million, specifically for farm equipment use.

Cotton module trucks and other agricultural traffic that did not meet federal interstate requirements would be forced to take a 90-mile detour if I-555 was designated without the frontage road. Language included in the proposed FAST Act by Crawford and Arkansas’ senior U.S. Senator John Boozman includes an exemption which will allow these vehicles to continue using the three-mile stretch of highway that crosses the floodway without building the $33 million frontage road. AHTD will review existing safety protocols for this section of I-555 as part of its mandate to protect motorists.

The minute order was issued Wednesday at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Commission’s monthly meeting in Little Rock.