Busy corridors in Van Buren and Greenwood will receive some much needed relief thanks to Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) projects in the coming years, Highway Commissioner Keith Gibson told a group of area residents during a July 29 meeting.
Gibson said partnerships with both cities will lead major construction projects that will help alleviate some of the more congested areas of the cities.
“The Greenwood Bypass project is one that is very much needed because of work and school traffic,” he said.
Greenwood has partnered with ArDot to build a bypass around the city. The state has dedicated $25 million of CAP 2 money from Issue 1 to build a portion of Highway 10 on that bypass, Gibson said. Arkansas voters passed Issue 1, which sets a permanent half-cent sales tax for highway and road projects, in the November 2020 general election. Greenwood will provide $5 million for the bypass project, which will be done in two phases, and provide right of way for the new location.
In a 2019 special election, Greenwood voters approved an extension of a one-fourth cent sales tax to be specifically used for the traffic relief project. The project will relieve traffic congestion in the mornings and afternoons that stem from the east side of the city on the Arkansas 10 Spur because there would be an alternate route around the city. The route would also help with safety concerns, according to the city. If a bridge is out or flooded between downtown and the east side of the city, emergency personnel would have a 60-mile detour.
The traffic relief project will be divided into two phases. The first will include one mile of new highway from the intersection of Arkansas 10 and Coker Street to the intersection of Arkansas 10 and Arkansas 96, which would then be added to the state highway system. The second phase of the project will widen about two miles of Arkansas 10 between Coker Street and U.S. 71. Greenwood would assume ownership and responsibility of the portion of Arkansas 10 between Bass Street and Elm Street and the portion of Arkansas 10 Spur between Arkansas 10 and U.S. 71 upon completion. The first phase is expected to go to contract in either late 2023 or early 2024, Gibson said.
“I’m sorry. I wish it could be done sooner. But the only reason it’s being done that quickly is because Greenwood has so generously participated in the project,” Gibson said.
VAN BUREN ROAD PROJECTS, I-49
Van Buren also will see projects in the next couple of years thanks to a partnership between the city and ArDoT. The Interstate 40 and Highway 59 interchange will see a major overhaul that might include moving the on and off ramp of eastbound Interstate 40 at the Highway 59 exit in Van Buren and adding a roundabout, ArDoT District Engineer Chad Adams has said. The project is scheduled to be under contract in the summer of 2022 and is expected to take 18-24 months to complete, Gibson said.
The project, which will be a major restructuring of traffic flow, has $10 million dedicated to it from ArDoT. Van Buren has committed $3 million, Gibson said.
A second Van Buren project will include widening Highway 59 from Pointer Trail to McKibben Street to five lanes. That project is scheduled for late 2025, Gibson said.
“That’s going to really improve that traffic congestion there,” he said.
Gibson also discussed future Interstate 49 projects.
“Lots of leaders involved in Arkansas want to see Interstate 49 to be completed and started as soon as possible,” he said.
Through Issue 1, Arkansas has dedicated $270 million for the I-40 at Alma to Highway 22 13.7-mile project that includes a two-lane bridge over the Arkansas River, and another $270 million for the south part of the interstate from Greenwood to Y City, Gibson said. Both projects are only two lanes, though it will eventually be four lanes, he said. A consultant has been selected for the design work of the project. The shovel ready project will be started in 2025.
“We could take the south to Greenwood project and say let’s just do four lanes and get that done. Or we could abandon that part because there are a lot of people who would like to see the Y City to Greenwood part done. But what we prefer to do is what we promised to do, and that is to build two lanes of both of those,” Gibson said. “We hope that the federal government through an infrastructure plan and earmarks and other things will provide the money once they see Arkansas building half that interstate and come in and say, let’s pump money into finishing it.”
The remaining cost to complete 136 miles of I-49 from Fort Smith to the Texas state line is $4.1 billion, he said.