Fort Smith City Leaders Approve Project To Widen Arkansas 45 

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Some major improvements are in the works for a busy Arkansas roadway.

Fort Smith city leaders voted unanimously in favor of widening Arkansas Highway 45. It would widen the highway from two lanes to five, and go all the way from Highway 71 to Zero Street.

"I'm glad," resident Isabel Butte said. "There's a lot of traffic all the time, and it just gets really crazy over there."

Butte has to take Highway 45 every time she leaves her neighborhood. She said traffic is the worst when people are heading to and from work and school.

"Sometimes you have to leave really early just to get somewhere," she said.

Work on the highway will begin in 2020, and it is expected to take two years to complete.

"This is really a good thing," city director Keith Lau said. "It's going to improve traffic, and it's something we're doing in partnership with the state highway department and Sebastian County."

That means Fort Smith will contribute $4 million of the $16 million project. The county is expected to pay $1.1 million, and the Arkansas Department of Transportation will foot the rest of the bill. Taxpayer John Mulson said he thinks it's worth it.

"Anytime you improve infrastructure, I think it's a good thing," he said.

Many people who drive the busy road said they think it will also improve safety. According to police, 26 car wrecks happened on Highway 45 in 2015. There were a total of 32 wrecks in 2016.

"I think the five lanes with the turn lane will allow traffic to keep going and make it safer," Lau said.

A stoplight will also be put up at the intersection of Arkansas 45 and Planters Road. Improvements will also be made to the light on U.S. 71.