Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

TOP STORY>>More work for North Belt

IN SHORT: Work to extend second phase of loop to Highway 107 should start within 10 years at a cost of $95 million, while other area projects include work on Highway 67/167 and Highway 5 between Highway 89 and 319.

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Construction could start on another four miles of the North Belt Freeway in the next 10 years, according to a report just released by the state Highway Department.

In its 66-page 2006 Arkansas State Highway Needs Study and Highway Improvement Plan, the department says it will have an estimated $4.1 billion to spend on highway construction projects over the next 10 years, but it has identified $19.1 billion in needs and improvements.

The continuance of I-440 from Highway 67/167 to Highway 107 is projected to cost $95 million.

“We expect to have public hearings on the possible routes from Highway 67/167 to Highway 107 in the fall, along with costs and environmental impact, and then a locked-in route by spring,” explained Scott Bennett, assistant chief of planning for the state Highway Department.

In all, the released highway plan lists 98 highway projects the state would like to fund between now and 2017, including 11 in Pulaski County, two in Lonoke County and two in White County. The 15 local projects carry a total price tag of nearly $275 million.

The 2006 highway plan is open to public comment, Bennett said, through Aug. 18, but unless there is a major outcry or concern the plan will pretty much stand, Bennett told The Leader.

Bennett called the plan a picture of what “we can reasonably do over the next 10 years.”

The study prioritizes highway projects into long-range, intermediate-range and short-range projects.

Identification and placement on the 10-year list doesn’t guarantee that any particular project will get funding, according to Bennett.

“A lot can happen before we get to a project that will cause changes in need, priority or funding,” he added.
In Pulaski County, projects on the 10-year list include:

- Widening 1.5 miles of Highway 67/167 at Kiehl Avenue from four lanes to six, for $7.9 million.

- Widening of 1.8 miles of Highway 67/167 at Redmond Road and Highway 440, at a cost of $14.4 million.

- Interchange improvements to Highway 67/167 and the James Street overpass at a cost of $13.6 million.

- Widening about a mile of Highway 107 to four lanes from Jacksonville Cato Road to Bayou Meto at a cost of $3.2 million.

- Improvements to the I-430/I-630 interchange at a cost of $25 million.

- Rehabilitation of the I-440 south terminal interchange at a cost of $1.5 million.

- Rehabilitation of the I-440 interchange at Frazier Pike and the Arkansas River for $14.5 million.

- Extending the North Belt Freeway (I-440) from Highway 67/167 to Highway 107, a distance of 4.3 miles, at a cost of $95 million.

- Widening 9 miles of I-40 from I-430 to the Faulkner County line from four to six lanes at a cost of $30 million.

- Improving the I-40 Mau-melle interchange at a cost of $1.95 million.

- Widening 1.2 miles of Highway 5 from Saline County to Otter Creek at a cost of $4 million.

In Lonoke County:

- Improvements to the I-40 and Highway 89 interchange for $2.55 million.

- Widening 5.5 miles of Highway 5 from Highway 89 to Highway 319 at a cost of $55 million.

In White County:
- Minor widening and rehabilitation of 3.8 miles of Highway 64 near Bald Knob and the White River at a cost of $4.5 million.