There’s a new member of the Arkansas highway commission. Governor Asa Hutchinson appointment businessman and political activist Keith Gibson to the five-member team.
For the first time since 1969 someone from the Fort Smith region has been appointed to the Arkansas highway commission.
“The River Valley is growing. It`s got incredible opportunity for the future. Infrastructure is an important part of it with I-49 and the needs there, and so Keith`s voice will be very important for the river valley,” said Gov. Hutchinson.
The question on a lot of people`s mind is the I-49 project which would run from Barling to Alma, as well as, a new bridge over the Arkansas river.
Funding roadblocks have created challenges to the project and a recent study found that a toll road would not be possible.
“It`s really the high costs of that section. It`s somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million dollars, and really until you have all of interstate 49 built through western Arkansas it doesn`t generate enough traffic to have the toll revenue really pay for much of the costs,” said Scott Bennett, Arkansas Department of Transportation Director
When asked about his plans to complete the southern stretch of I-49 Gibson didn’t go in to details.
“I know it`s important to this area. I know there is a lot of people in this area who value the commission looking at that and are critical of that. So, that`ll be one of the things that i`ll be learning about and try to form opinions on,” said Gibson.
Governor Hutchinson says a critical part of getting that project completed is passage of a new highway funding program by the legislature.