SEBASTIAN COUNTY (KFSM)—Interstate 49 will one day connect from New Orleans all the way to Winnipeg, Canada. It turns out Arkansas is to blame for being the majority of the missing piece of this cross-country connection.
It’s a project experts say would do wonders for the local economy, and now an Arkansas House Resolution is pushing for federal funding to get the project done.
“Basically it's done from Canada to New Orleans with the exception of this stretch between here and Texarkana,” said Ivy Owen, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.
Seth McDonald has lived in Northwest Arkansas for 15 years.
“Having lived here a while it's kind of the same thing for everything,” he said. “It seems like we're the last [state] to get updated, but I think it'll be something that is definitely needed.”
House Resolution 1018 states everything from Fort Smith to Texarkana will no longer be tourist destinations if that leg of the project does not get finished.
“It all comes down to the money,” Owen said.
The 14-mile stretch of bridge that would go from Barling to Alma over the Arkansas River is projected to cost $500 million, according to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.
“Anything that the federal government can do to speed this process along I'm all in favor of,” Owen said.
McDonald added, “If the government has some funds that they could assist the state, that would be great.”
Federal funding is exactly what the authors of HR 1018 are encouraging. They also want to bring attention back to the project, which Owen said needs to be a priority.
“When this is completed, there's not going to be any stopping expansion of Fort Smith, I can tell you that, and even the rest of Sebastian County,” he said.
The expansion from Fort Chaffee to Texarkana is estimated to cost about $2.5 billion, according to the AHTD.