ARDOT Holds Two Public Input Meetings About Interstate Improvements

ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- Arkansas Department of Transportation held two public input meetings Thursday (April 26) to discuss Interstate 49 in Washington and Sebastian counties.

ARDOT presented a brand-new option to improve the interchange at I-49 and Highway 62 in Fayetteville that will alleviate all the morning and evening traffic that can cause a lot of headaches for drivers.

The interchange they want to put in is called a Single Point Urban Interchange.

ARDOT Public Information Officer Danny Straessle said this will be the same as the one they are putting in at exit 85 in Rogers and at the Bella Vista Bypass.

“The Single Point Urban Interchange handles a very large volume of traffic. There is one light system that controls everything, it manages the access to and from I-49 and still provides for a lot of connectivity and continuity for the through traffic,” Straessle said.

In the River Valley, Strassle said they want to extend I-49 from Highway 22 in Barling to I-40 in Alma.

He said they've been looking at doing this for the last 20 years, but haven't had the funds for the project that is estimated to cost $600 million.

“Could be charge a toll to pay for it. Would enough people travel on this new stretch of I-49 between Alma and Barling and pay a toll? Would it collect enough money to pay for the construction?” he said.

ARDOT said they cannot put a toll road on an existing interstate, but by building this new roadway, they can charge a toll. No word yet on how much that toll may be if approved.

Many people who attended the meeting in Barling are in support of the project and have no problem with possibly paying a toll.

"Whatever means they have to do to get this put in would be well worth it for the citizens," said Linda Shipley. "Not only in Barling, but in Fort Smith and for all the commercial traffic that's going to be coming through. They can have easy access,” Shipley said.

“It will open up industry for Chaffee Crossing even more because of the River, the ports, all of that is right here," Don Keesee said. "I see no reason that this would be detrimental to our area."

More than 200 people attended the meeting Thursday in Barling, and almost 50 were at the one in Fayetteville regarding the interchange.