ALMA, Arkansas — For now it’s a no-go on an Interstate 49 interchange at U.S. 64 in Alma as part of the interstate’s almost 14-mile extension south toward Barling. While area residents are happy about the extension, some, like former Rep. Ed Thicksten, are pushing for the interchange.
More than 150 people gathered Thursday afternoon in the Alma First Baptist Church family life center for a “listen only” session held by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) about the interstate extension on which construction of the first phase could begin later this year. Several ARDOT employees, with several maps and video presentations, were at the session to answer questions.
With funding from voter-approved Issue 1, ARDOT has dedicated $270 million for the I-40/I-49 interchange at Alma to Highway 22 13.7-mile project that includes a two-lane bridge over the Arkansas River, and another $270 million for the south part of the interstate from Greenwood to Y City. The Y City connection would take I-49 to the Highway 270 route east to Hot Springs.
Arkansas Highway Commissioner Keith Gibson, who lives in the Fort Smith metro, has said the cost to complete 136 miles of I-49 from Fort Smith to the Texas state line is $4.1 billion. There is no funding for that work or a timeline. The nearly 20-mile Bella Vista Bypass, or Missouri-Arkansas Connector, consisted of six projects totaling more than $220 million beginning in February 2011. The completion of the project links 265 miles of interstate from Fort Smith to Kansas City, Mo.
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