Study Would Consider Tolls To Help Pay For Next Phase Of I-49 Project

BARLING (KFSM) -- A stretch of Interstate 49 between Barling and Alma, that would ultimately shorten the commute to Northwest Arkansas, has been on the drawing board for quite a while.

Now there is talk of a study to see if by making that stretch a toll road, including a new bridge over the Arkansas River, it would actually get built.

Resident Melanie Akin said she does not support toll roads.

"I think we're taxed enough," she said.

But Damien Madrid, in town from El Paso said he is all for road improvement.

"I don't have tolls in Texas," Madrid said. "I don't know what the inconvenience of having a toll is or isn't, but if it's gonna help build [the] city, then I guess they should right?"

"Mobility is not the problem here," said Danny Straessle of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. "Congestion is not the problem here. What we are talking about with this stretch of highway is economic development which is very important, connectivity which is also very important."

Straessle said a study to see if tolls would be effective would not be done until the beginning of 2017. The issue is whether enough people use the highway and would be willing to pay the toll.

"The state highway department already has toll authority, so we would be able to execute a toll study and really get into providing a toll system in the state," Straessle said.

The next phase of the project extends from Arkansas Highway 22 up to Alma where I-40 interchanges to I-49.

"High-level estimates, planning estimates, that whole project is taxed somewhere at about $500 million; that is half a billion dollars," Straessle said.

There are some other options to pay for the project, such as a special tax authorization approved by voters. Right now, the possibility of tolls is just in the study phase.

The AHTD said it has $300,000 set aside in their budget to pay for the study.

Straessle said all the environmental work is completed, so the next step is authorizing more preliminary engineering, which will help in gathering real numbers on the cost of the project.

5 comments

  • Wayne Watkins

    The local people will not pay a toll. There will not be enough convenience for it to be worth a toll, people will continue to use the same routes they use now and the toll road could possibly wind up costing more money than it would bring in.

    • Mike Haring

      Yes some locals will. Time is a valuable commodity. You should study Denver’s road system. E-470 cost $2.40 for a short commute, but it saves you 30 minutes during rush hour. What’s your time worth.

      Tolls are not in Arkansan’s DNA. Economic development is. The project will be successful. Build the road.

  • wesm6

    Texas has a ton of toll roads. It is my understanding that they do not have a state income tax, as Arkansas does. So, I can understand making toll roads. There are many toll roads around the Dallas area and I grew up next to the Hardy toll road. We pay enough in taxes, both state and federal. Perhaps, we should start charging them a tax for living in Arkansas. That would be a hoot.

  • Never go full liberal

    Great!!! So this means they will be cutting our taxes right?? Not likely. Arkansas is one of the most heavily taxed states and frankly I am about sick of it. You never actually OWN anything in Arkansas because you have to pay taxes on EVERYTHING.

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