Arkansas Department of Transportation Considers Local Toll

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Officials in Sebastian and Crawford Counties are getting a first look at details for the future of Interstate 49, and how it will be funded. One idea in consideration is to add a toll.

The future I-49 would stretch between Barling to Alma.

The Department of Transportation hired a consultant during early 2017 to conduct a toll study.

"What this consultant will do is look at the potential revenue for that and try to make an estimate," Danny Straessle with Arkansas Department of Transportation said.

Those with the department said several things will factor into the decision of placing Arkansas' very first toll road, including how the way of life in the area will change.

"How much traffic will go on it and will those people be willing to pay a toll?" Straessle asked. "How much of a toll could we possibly collect to pay for this? How much is the construction going to cost?"

The topic of adding a toll isn't new in our area. Several studies have already been done across the state including one for the Bella Vista bypass.

"We did an investment grade toll study on that where we really got down into the weeds on if we could make this work and in the end, we decided it was not a good financial investment for the state," he added.

Some officials said because it's been in the works for so long, people are anxious for answers.

"I've not had any negative," Dennis Gilstrap, Crawford County Judge said. "I think it's just something that's been going on for 20 years and I think it's a project people are looking forward to and they'd like to get some answers as far as how this might be funded and when it might happen."

The public will get the chance to weight in. Officials said one or two public input meeting will be scheduled after the first of the year.

By next fall, the toll study will be complete and officials should have a better idea about the project.