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Playing Catch Up: I-49 Corridor Improvements Paying Off with Less Congestion, Accidents

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September 07, 2018 By Dave Woods

Residents of Northwest Arkansas are reaping the benefits of billions of dollars in transportation funding, and years of study of the I-49 corridor project by the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

“The work we have been doing in Northwest Arkansas is playing catch up to the traffic that’s already there and growth that’s been happening for decades,” said Danny Straessle, public information officer for the department charged with development and maintenance of the state's highways. “The growth along the corridor precipitated the necessity for a capacity increase. I-49 was a four-lane highway. There were congestion and accidents. We studied it for a long time and added a third lane in each direction from Exit 62 at Martin Luther King Drive (in Fayetteville) and Exit 88 (in Bentonville) and increased the capacity of the corridor.”

A majority of funding for the mammoth project came from voter-approved plans.

“We funded it with a mix of three sources,” he explained. “Two were voter-approved construction programs. A $1.3 billion program to improve 455 of 700 miles of interstate in Arkansas and with a temporary half-cent sales tax on everything but food, gas, and medicine. It sunsets in 2023. It is a $1.8 billion program that allows for expansion of four-lane highways in the state. The regular state gas tax handles the rest.”

Danny said it’s good that the voters recognized the importance of Arkansas highways to the state’s economy.

“If it wasn’t for our voter-approved programs we would not have been able to widen this corridor,” he said. “Already we are seeing the benefits of a widened 1-49 corridor with fewer delays and congestion. It should serve us for the next 20 years.”

The I-49 corridor isn’t the only project that will improve the quality of life for often frustrated Northwest Arkansas drivers. Work on Highway 112 and Highway 265 is moving along.

“Arkansas highways are the backbone of economic development in the Natural State,” he stressed. “Without good highways, you can’t attract industry and business. We take pride in the work we do helping business by ensuring customers can get to them in a safe and efficient manner.”


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