TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — Work is expected to begin soon on a $16.1 million piece of Interstate 49 between Texarkana and the Louisiana border, which will meet up with a stretch of the highway in Louisiana to complete the project.
The highway is planned to connect Kansas City, Mo., with Lafayette, La., and connect to Interstate 10 in Lafayette to north of Interstate 20 in Shreveport. Crews recently began working on the segment of road between Shreveport and the Arkansas border.
Once those projects are complete, the highway will run uninterrupted from Texarkana to Lafayette.
Still unfunded is nearly 200 miles of roadway between Texarkana and Fort Smith.
The Texarkana Gazette (http://is.gd/6ClahT) reports the 4.2 miles from Doddridge to the Louisiana border will boost commerce for the area because it is expected to bring more traffic into Texarkana.
"It's very exciting to me. In 2000 we only had a small segment from I-30 to Arkansas Boulevard (in Texarkana). This will take us to the Louisiana line," state Rep. Prissy Hickerson, R-Texarkana. Hickerson also served for a decade on the Arkansas Highway Commission, which awarded a bid for the work on Tuesday.
"A lot has been done in 13 years. Looking back in hindsight it's been faster than we think," she said.
Miller County Judge Larry Burgess said the road will serve as a trade route between northern and southern regions.
"I'm glad it's happening. We still have a lot of work to do to make it interstate from the Gulf Coast to Canada. Every step is a step in the right direction," Miller County Judge Larry Burgess said.
"I'm glad they found the money. They've been working for a while. I'm glad they got the final funds to connect the interstate with Louisiana," Burgess said.
Construction is expected to last more than two years in northwest Louisiana, officials said when ground was broken for the job earlier this month.
The 4.2-mile Arkansas project is expected to start within a month's time and is also projected to last about two years.
The next Arkansas project will likely be to extend the highway north to De Queen.
Danny Straessle, spokesman for Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department plenty of planning remains to be done.
"Everyone wants to know when we're going to get north of Texarkana into De Queen. It's been in the planning for some time. There is no funding for it, but it doesn't mean it won't happen. It will be designated a priority and the funds will get there," Straessle said.
Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com