U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., Tom Cotton, R-Ark, and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., announced Friday (May 21) a bill to designate U.S. Highway 412, from Interstate 35 in Noble County, Okla., to Interstate 49 in Springdale, as a future interstate.
“Connecting Northwest Arkansas and North Central Oklahoma will encourage economic development along this corridor and expand opportunities for employment in the region,” Boozman said. “I’m proud to join Senator Inhofe and Senator Cotton in designating U.S. Route 412 as a future interstate.”
“Interstates make travel safer and shipping easier,” Cotton said. “Connecting I-49 to I-35 will support NWA’s growth and bring opportunity to all communities in the corridor. I look forward to working with Senators Boozman and Inhofe to designate Route 412 as a future interstate.”
Most major metropolitan areas in the United States have two or more interstate highways connecting their region, but Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas are both served by one interstate highway: Interstate 44 and I-49, respectively, according to a news release. The Tulsa area is expected to grow to more than 1 million people after the 2020 Census, and Northwest Arkansas is growing to more than 500,000 people. The future interstate designation for U.S. 412 is needed to keep pace with the economic growth in the regions, the release shows.
The future interstate route would connect three key interstate freight corridors: I-44, I-35, and I-49. The future interstate route serves two major inland ports: the Tulsa Ports of Catoosa and Inola and Oakley’s Port 33 on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. It also is expected to improve access to the Tulsa International Airport and the Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill.
The future interstate would improve supply chain connectivity for retail and industrial employers in the region, including energy and aerospace companies in northeast Oklahoma and Walmart in Northwest Arkansas, according to the release.
“Our interstate system is the lifeblood of Oklahoma’s economy and provides the network for companies to bring materials into our critical industries, for businesses to locate in areas convenient for consumers, and for commuters to get to work and school safely and reliably,” Inhofe said. “Designating Route 412 as an interstate would benefit Oklahoma by attracting new businesses, improving safety, enhancing freight mobility and better connecting rural and urban communities. I am proud to introduce this bill today alongside Sens. Boozman and Cotton and look forward to its swift consideration.”
Following stakeholders support the bill: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum; Rich Brierre, director of the Indian National Council of Governments; Tim Gatz, secretary of transportation for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation; and Lorie Tudor, director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
On Wednesday (May 26), the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission Policy Committee is expected to discuss the proposed designation for U.S. 412.
Asked about plans for Highway 412 to bypass Siloam Springs where there are multiple traffic signals and a 45-mph speed limit for several miles, Tim Conklin, assistant director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, said “interstates/freeways have full control of access and have uninterrupted flow — no traffic signals and no at-grade intersections. The existing U.S. 412 would not be designated as an interstate/freeway today if the facility does not have full control of access and uninterrupted flow. Just as Arkansas has worked for decades to implement the ‘Future I-49’ as an interstate, ArDOT/ODOT studies would have to be completed, projects identified and funding secured to bring portions of U.S. 412 up to interstate standards.”
Link here for the full text of the bill.