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johnnydr87

Highway projects needed in Arkansas

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Well, I was thinking about this a lot. I-49 will become a major route since it is in the path of many major cities: Kansas City, Texarkana, Shreveport, Fort Smith, all four cities of the northwest arkansas metro, and many sizeable towns. (I didn't mention all the cities in Lousiana or Missouri or farther north.)

Here are the major highways already in the state:

ar_interstate.gif

I-49 (which will be the first north/south route to go the entire length of Arkansas) will cross I-40 in Fort Smith, and Texarkana's I-30. What could it mean for Fort Smith? Will it develop much faster because it makes up the crossroads of two major highways. And for Texarkana it might even mean more, since I-30 is much more traveled than Fort Smith's I-40.

After those two major interstates are built, what other interstates are needed still in Arkansas? I think those pretty much nail the most needed areas for an interstate in Arkansas, and how fortunate they are being built around relatively the same time. The last remain spot where a high could possibly be need is extreme northern Arkansas, where Eureka Springs, Harrison, and Mountain home all make a nice path. Perhaps it would eventually connect up with I-55 in Blytheville, or Cape Girardeau in Missouri.

Other Interstate notes:

-speculation of completing the highway up to Little Rock and Jonesboro, and from there to I-55.

-I-530 will be connected to the future I-69 in Warren, Arkansas.

-Hot Springs is almost completed with its Martin Luther King Expressway around the city.

Other needed expansions?

In Hot Springs, Central Avenue is basically where every single store is. Every mall, shopping center, restaurant, is all crammed along highway 7. It's a mess, and the traffic is *always* bumper to bumper. It would be impossible to expand this to six lane since buildings are pretty much entrenched right on the edge of the street. I believe they're considering, if not already planning, to expand Higdon Ferry, a small road that is already heavily used as a "shortcut" since it runs parallel to a major length of Central.

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I imagine both will have impacts on the state. I-69 won't go through very much of the state but it will be going through some of the poorest areas of the state that could use a boost. I really like the I-49 project, it has great potential in becoming a major north-south interstate. To the 'white revolution's' dismay it could help western Arkansas's hispanic growth. :D

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Three years ago in the Stephens Media Papers (the Bentonville News, I believe) I read an editorial which said that a study had been conducted which said (I kid you not) that when I-49 is constructed to Fort Smith (and ostensibly, if the Houston to Shreveport interstate or limited-access 4 lane highway is built as well) that FSM is projected to grow as big as the Northwest Arkansas metro area is growing now.

!!!!!!!!!

If that were indeed to happen...well, that interstate would cut across the heart of America like forked lightning (Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City, NWA - Fort Smith (and its I-40 crossing) - Texarkana, Shreveport - New Orleans, Shreveport - Houston.)

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Three years ago in the Stephens Media Papers (the Bentonville News, I believe) I read an editorial which said that a study had been conducted which said (I kid you not) that when I-49 is constructed to Fort Smith (and ostensibly, if the Houston to Shreveport interstate or limited-access 4 lane highway is built as well) that FSM is projected to grow as big as the Northwest Arkansas metro area is growing now.

!!!!!!!!!

If that were indeed to happen...well, that interstate would cut across the heart of America like forked lightning (Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City, NWA - Fort Smith (and its I-40 crossing) - Texarkana, Shreveport - New Orleans, Shreveport - Houston.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I guess I hadn't thought that much about it, but being at the intersection of I-40 and I-49 would be pretty nice. Ft Smith is growing, granted not at the pace of northwest Arkansas. But it seems to be one of those areas you don't hear that much about. Even though it is the second largest city in Arkansas. (For now that is). But I guess a good question is when will I-49 actually happen. I don't think it's going to be cheap going through the Ouachitas, especially since they are east-west mountains and the road is going north-south. That and there are a lot of other projects out there too.

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Three years ago in the Stephens Media Papers (the Bentonville News, I believe) I read an editorial which said that a study had been conducted which said (I kid you not) that when I-49 is constructed to Fort Smith (and ostensibly, if the Houston to Shreveport interstate or limited-access 4 lane highway is built as well) that FSM is projected to grow as big as the Northwest Arkansas metro area is growing now.

!!!!!!!!!

If that were indeed to happen...well, that interstate would cut across the heart of America like forked lightning (Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City, NWA - Fort Smith (and its I-40 crossing) - Texarkana, Shreveport - New Orleans, Shreveport - Houston.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Why would it make Ft Smith grow? It would mean a lot of truck stops, I guess, but there's not that much demand along that route - especially North of KC.

Mith, I don't see it happening for a decade or more, honestly. The price tag is way too high. A study a couple years back had the bridge over the Ark River in Ft Smith alone at $100 million and the average cost per taxpayer of the project at $20k a piece. That's when they started floating the toll idea. If it happens, it'll happen as a toll road.

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Why would it make Ft Smith grow?  It would mean a lot of truck stops, I guess, but there's not that much demand along that route - especially North of KC.

Mith, I don't see it happening for a decade or more, honestly.  The price tag is way too high.  A study a couple years back had the bridge over the Ark River in Ft Smith alone at $100 million and the average cost per taxpayer of the project at $20k a piece.  That's when they started floating the toll idea.  If it happens, it'll happen as a toll road.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree it will be over a decade. I know there are other projects that are supposed to be worked on eventually. I imagine some of those will be done before I-49. That and we are talking about a pretty long stretch of road through the Ouachitas. It will probably be a long time before they have the money set aside. I believe they had talked about I-540 20 years before it was finally built. But I do think I-49 could help Ft Smith and other areas. Now I know you can't expect a road to be a miracle cure that will cause all sorts of economic conditions. But I do believe that I-40 has had a big effect in Arkansas. Can you imagine if it were built somewhere else and what Arkansas would be like. But it is a major interstate, and we'll have to see how I-49 and other highways like I-69 will eventually turn out.

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Aporkalypse,

I can't remember the exact wording of the rest of the article, but I seem to recall that the potential growth involved Fort Smith becoming a major transportation hub. Now, I do recall the old saying about "the best laid plans of mice and men" so this all could go astray, but...

- If NWA does indeed become the center of a 1 to 2 million strong population, that would make no fewer than three along the north (of Fort Smith) end of the corridor (along with Minneapolis and Kansas City). Off the top of my head, the nearest comparable interstates like that (running through that many large population centers) are ones like I-75, and there's a significant city (as I recall) at each place where that Interstate crosses a major east-west highway.

fedinterlow.gif

- Fort Smith would also then become a significant gateway to Texas as well, would it not? (Let alone the access to New Orleans. A big reason the Kansas City Southern railway has been able to survive as long as it has was that it was the most direct rail route between Kansas City and the Gulf of Mexico...the KCS serves both the Beaumont/Port Arthur Golden Triangle ports and New Orleans.)

Looking at the map above IF (and mith makes great points about the Ouachitas...I think they're actively working on the interstate now in the Ark-La-Tex gulf coastal plain piney woods between Shreveport and Texarkana in Miller County, Arkansas) the interstate is extended from KC to Joplin, Fort Smith and Texarkana (and again, especially if they're able to make a talked-about interstate between Houston and Shreveport) this interstate looks to me like it could be a veritable beeline from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Kansas City and NWA (the major metropolitan area that doesn't yet know it's a major metropolitan area) to D/FW, Houston and New Orleans.

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I'm going to go out on a limb and say it would be interesting to see today how much "red" there is in NWA on the map above were it to reflect current interstate traffic numbers. (Note how in 2002 there were two dots at Bentonville and Fayetteville and no dots in FSM. Drive by the Bentonville/Rogers 102/I-540 and U.S. 71/I-540 interchanges in the morning nowadays and you'll be instantly reminded, as my wife's formerly-of-Mansfield, TX niece was a couple of weeks ago, of "D/FW traffic".)

I hadn't looked at that map before making this morning's posts, but now looking at the Texas traffic and knowing what's going on here locally, I'm sure that Stephens Media group editor (he was based in Little Rock) and the surveys he cited were absolutely right.

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Considering I live in DFW and have spent a decent portion of my life up in NWA, I laugh at the comparison of the traffic. NWA traffic isn't really that impressive right now but it will be, largely because of the linear arrangement of the cities. The "center" of NWA for most purposes is Fayetteville but for business and employment it is Bentonville at nearly the opposite pole of the metro. Traffic isn't as bad as you would think largely because it flows both ways, you don't have movement in largely one direction (into or out of a downtown) the way you do in most normal metro areas as many people are headed both North and South. This is a blessing and a curse, it's keeping traffic reasonable now but in the future it will make it exceedingly difficult to manage traffic as the wheel and spoke system so common in mid-sized and major cities won't work in NWA because of this linearity. The most comparable area in terms of layout really seem to be Southwest Florida (Ft Myers/Naples) where I-75 and US 49 anchor a busy parallel road system. Ultimately we all know I-540 needs to be six-laned from Fayetteville to Bentonville. However, the smart thing to be working on now is to come up with more wide parallel highways. US 71 hasn't been well-prepared to carry more traffic as it will need to, in the future it would be nice if it could have a semi-controlled access with most major cross streets having over-underpasses and perhaps even ramps (the way Loop 12 highways do in Dallas).

Realistically, I always think growth figures are way hyperinflated. I see a NWA of 500-600k but not one of 2 million in the next 2-3 decades. There are too many positive factors that went into NWA's growth that are being diminished as a side effect of its growth. Besides, if that were true NWA would dwarf Tulsa, Little Rock, and Springfield.

Looking at that map of the interestates, something comes to mind - you can get to Dallas or Houston just as easily from the upper Midwest with or without I-49. When I used to drive between NWA and KC (just after I-540 opened), there was almost no traffic at all on US 71 between KC and where I-44 crosses it (Carthage), despite the fact it was a nice 4-lane divided highway. Likewise, US 71 through Southern Arkansas really isn't a busy highway now - the only people who really use it are trying to get to Mena or between Texarkana and Ft Smith. From Ft Smith there's an easy way to get to Dallas on a large US Hwy (75) which goes South from I-40 near Sallisaw and becomes the North Central Expressway in Dallas. I just don't see I-49 being a heavily used transport pathway.

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I just don't see I-49 being a heavily used transport pathway.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I don't know sir...I look at that map and see a huge gap in the central U.S.

You just said that I-40 (running past Fort Smith via Van Buren and Alma) is apparently the nation's most heavily travelled east/west highway.

I just found the web site for the proposed "I-69" (which will benefit east Arkansas if it comes to pass)...it indeed would put an interstate between Shreveport/Bossier City and Houston.

There's a large "Texas ex" contingent in northwest Arkansas, and it's growing. This also would likely become a corridor for people in the nearby, rapidly-growing Springfield, MO area as well (and I've read projections in the Springfield News-leader saying that metro area is projected to grow somewhere in size between Tulsa and Cincinnati) to get to many points in Texas. Springfield/Branson is all four lane to the Arkansas line and to above Harrison, but there's a large swath of Boston Mountains to be crossed from Harrison to Conway that are pretty much, I believe, 2 lane.

Maybe I'm all wet...but I think there's ample reason to see Fort Smith growing rapidly if this interstate, forked at Shreveport, is ever built. (It would HAVE to be a shot in the arm for SHV as well.) The question is, when would the Texarkana-to-FSM leg be completed through the Ouachita ridges?

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KJW and Aporkalypse both make good points. I could see an I-49 taking a while to living up to it's potential. I'm not sure how much initial traffic there would be. I tend to the of the US as more of a east-west deliniation than north-south. But I do think there is some nice potential for a north-south interstate in this region as KJW said.

Most of the population figures I've seen have northwest Arkansas getting close having a 1 Mil metro by 2050. Not necessarily getting there overnight. And there are questions about whether northwest Arkansas can really keep up with a growth rate like this. I wonder if we can get getting enough funding to keep infrastructure going. Arkansas isn't a particularly rich state and I doubt we'll get enough money from the state to have the infrastructure to keep up with the growth. So that would mean either using federal means or increasing tax rates or perhaps both. Now a lot of people never thought the growth would have continued like it has to this point. I'm not saying it's not possible, but I think it might become harder as time goes on.

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Looking at that map of the interestates, something comes to mind - you can get to Dallas or Houston just as easily from the upper Midwest with or without I-49.  When I used to drive between NWA and KC (just after I-540 opened), there was almost no traffic at all on US 71 between KC and where I-44 crosses it (Carthage), despite the fact it was a nice 4-lane divided highway. Likewise, US 71 through Southern Arkansas really isn't a busy highway now - the only people who really use it are trying to get to Mena or between Texarkana and Ft Smith.  From Ft Smith there's an easy way to get to Dallas on a large US Hwy (75) which goes South from I-40 near Sallisaw and becomes the North Central Expressway in Dallas.  I just don't see I-49 being a heavily used transport pathway.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Actually, I basically lived in Houston for a couple years, and while I-35 might be OK to go from Houston to Minneapolis--it's still a good jog out of the way.

Houston got shortchanged years ago on its interstates--only two of them--and it's difficult to get to certain points in the Midwest, or many places northeast of Houston. I remember driving from Houston to Indiana and you'd have to go on Hwy 59 up to Texarkana before you'd hit I-30, which would only then allow you interstate access to Chicago, St. Louis, and so on.

And sometimes Hwy 59 was two-lane.

The upcoming I-69 will correct that problem, linking Houston to at least the eastern portion of the Midwest.

There is also a freeway being built called the "Avenue of the Saints" between Minneapolis/St. Paul and St. Louis which will be another alternative between the Gulf Coast and upper Midwest.

I think the best thing about I-49 for NWA AR/Ft. Smith would be the interstate connection to Kansas City.

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Actually, I basically lived in Houston for a couple years, and while I-35 might be OK to go from Houston to Minneapolis--it's still a good jog out of the way.

Houston got shortchanged years ago on its interstates--only two of them--and it's difficult to get to certain points in the Midwest, or many places northeast of Houston.  I remember driving from Houston to Indiana and you'd have to go on Hwy 59 up to Texarkana before you'd hit I-30, which would only then allow you interstate access to Chicago, St. Louis, and so on.

And sometimes Hwy 59 was two-lane.

The upcoming I-69 will correct that problem, linking Houston to at least the eastern portion of the Midwest.

There is also a freeway being built called the "Avenue of the Saints" between Minneapolis/St. Paul and St. Louis which will be another alternative between the Gulf Coast and upper Midwest.

I think the best thing about I-49 for NWA AR/Ft. Smith would be the interstate connection to Kansas City.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yeah I've been waiting for Missouri to link I-540 to at least I-44 with an interstate quality road.

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The reason I don't see I-49 being such a hugely utilized route is that there just isn't much North of KC to transport from save Minneapolis which is already linked to KC. The population north of KC is as sparse as it gets in the contiguous U.S. In any case, you can reach KC from Dallas or Houston using interstates or turnpikes in roughly the same distance using I-35/I-45 now and there still would be no direct way to Houston from Texarkana. Mith's points about East-West routes like I-20, I-30, and I-40 that link the East Coast with CA is largely true no doubt but North-South routes like I-95 and I-5 on the coasts are probably the nation's most important highways. I don't really see the benefit for Fort Smith because frankly I think it'll be modestly traveled interstate, kind of like I-27 between Amarillo and Lubbock.

The portion of I-40 that is very heavily traveled, BTW, is that between Little Rock and Memphis, where Westbound traffic heading towards LA, DFW, etc will divert onto I-30 in Little Rock and that heading to Northern Ca would take I-40. That segment essentially carries double the traffic of the I-40 segment between LR and OKC and that between Little Rock and DFW on I-30 as 30 and 40 merge in Little Rock. This is part of why Memphis became such a huge distribution center, because it intersects with that busy I-40 segment and the busiest intracoastal N-S Highway, I-55 - which links Chicago, St Louis, Memphis, Jackson and ultimately New Orleans and connects Midwest with Southeast and Southwest. Memphis sits at really what is a key crossroads on the map.

"I think the best thing about I-49 for NWA AR/Ft. Smith would be the interstate connection to Kansas City."

McDonald County aside, it's already essentially there. It's a designated U.S. Highway but it's 4-lane divided the entire way except for that roughly 25-30 mile span between Bella Vista and Neosho and last time I checked they were working on it. Again, I used to drive that road a lot and let me tell you, that was a dead highway - kind of like US 67/167 between Cabot and Newport - you wonder why it's there other than the occasional Wal-Mart truck. It'll be interesting to see how excited Missouri is about turning around and redoing that entire section of highway - it's 4 lane divided and stoplight-free now but they'll have to raise it and put in exits because now there are stop sign connections with crossing roads, meaning dozens and dozens of overpasses. It wasn't built the way I-530 or the I-540 portion in NWA were, where they could easily be converted from 4 lane divided US hwy to Interstate just by changing the sign.

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Aporkalypse...guess we'll have to wait on this one.

If/when I-69/I-49 allows KC/FSM/Texarkana/Houston access that will be the best KC/NWA access to Houston and New Orleans, bar none. Guess we'll have to see how that affects traffic. And what about Memphis to, say, Los Angeles traffic as well...won't I-40 be faster? And it will still go through Smitty.

As for U.S. 71 at McDonald...there's EXTREMELY heavy traffic there now north of the state line, and when these restaurants, etc. are built it will be a bottleneck until the new bypass.

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Aporkalypse...guess we'll have to wait on this one.

If/when I-69/I-49 allows KC/FSM/Texarkana/Houston access that will be the best KC/NWA access to Houston and New Orleans, bar none.  Guess we'll have to see how that affects traffic.  And what about Memphis to, say, Los Angeles traffic as well...won't I-40 be faster?  And it will still go through Smitty.

As for U.S. 71 at McDonald...there's EXTREMELY heavy traffic there now north of the state line, and when these restaurants, etc. are built it will be a bottleneck until the new bypass.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

No doubt they need that new bypass. Either that or liquor stores IN the county instead of in Missouri.

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Aporkalypse...guess we'll have to wait on this one.

If/when I-69/I-49 allows KC/FSM/Texarkana/Houston access that will be the best KC/NWA access to Houston and New Orleans, bar none.  Guess we'll have to see how that affects traffic.  And what about Memphis to, say, Los Angeles traffic as well...won't I-40 be faster?  And it will still go through Smitty.

As for U.S. 71 at McDonald...there's EXTREMELY heavy traffic there now north of the state line, and when these restaurants, etc. are built it will be a bottleneck until the new bypass.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I-69/I-49 would no doubt be the quickest access from KC to Houston, and perhaps from KC to New Orleans if it's quicker than the KC-St. Louis-New Orleans route.

I'm just not sure how that would be a big boon to NWA AR.

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I-69/I-49 would no doubt be the quickest access from KC to Houston, and perhaps from KC to New Orleans if it's quicker than the KC-St. Louis-New Orleans route.

I'm just not sure how that would be a big boon to NWA AR.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm not sure how much of a boon it will be either but I doubt it will hurt, so I'm all for it. It will also be nice for any future traveling plans. :D

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You should all read what the Shereveport Chamber of Commerce wrote regarding I-49 on their website.

There is also another great tidbit of info from May of this year out of Kansas City. They say that the total price tag would be approx $4.9 billion, but would pay for itself within 6 years (without toll roads). I found that info from a newspaper website near KC. The figures were touted by the 3-state coalition formed to push for the completion of I-49.

Finally, of the nearly 45 similar highway projects on the drawing board, I-49 is furthest along in the process since almost all the environmental studies have been done. Eric Tober (a Washington attorney who's lobbying for the project) says "it's ready to go to construction."

As far as funding goes... the bulk of the cost will have to come from Washington... period. They're not going to build a toll road in AR. Nor will they hike taxes. Maybe in 5 years when it's time for another transportation bill???

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You should all read what the Shereveport Chamber of Commerce wrote regarding I-49 on their website.

There is also another great tidbit of info from May of this year out of Kansas City.  They say that the total price tag would be approx $4.9 billion, but would pay for itself within 6 years (without toll roads).  I found that info from a newspaper website near KC.  The figures were touted by the 3-state coalition formed to push for the completion of I-49.

Finally, of the nearly 45 similar highway projects on the drawing board, I-49 is furthest along in the process since almost all the environmental studies have been done.  Eric Tober (a Washington attorney who's lobbying for the project) says "it's ready to go to construction."

As far as funding goes... the bulk of the cost will have to come from Washington... period.  They're not going to build a toll road in AR.  Nor will they hike taxes.  Maybe in 5 years when it's time for another transportation bill???

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The talk really has been that the Arkansas portion would have to be a toll road. It will have to be no-frills and certainly not have any silly unnecessary tunnels because it splits some land in half. The last I heard the price had escalated by 40% in the last 5 years of talks because construction materials, particularly steel, went through the roof. Bridges are outragously expensive right now.

I don't understand how a non-toll road can "pay for itself in 6 years". It costs money to build and maintain and no revenue is collected - it's infrastructure investment. I think you are right, I think we need to hold off and hope federal money will be allotted to it. Nonetheless, if it is this money will likely prevent other needed projects like widening and ramp expansion of I-630 in LR and I-540 through NWA as well as other projects in these relatively high-traffic areas. Apparently federal money is already earmarked for the North Belt Fwy and that can't be diverted.

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Lousiana and Missouri may finish their sections of I-49 in the near future but I just get the feeling that the Arkansas section is going to take a while just to get going. And like Aporkalypse said they certainly can't afford an extra expenses like a tunnel. That alone helped make I-540 such an expensive project. But the bad thing is I think in today's more environment firendly world you can't simply blast through all the mountains either. The one thing I haven't been able to figure out is why they insist on building a new bridge over the Arkansas River. There is a section of I-540 at Ft Smith and it has a bridge over the Arkansas River. I realize that it is close to Ft Smith and maybe they want something that is further out from Ft Smith but to me it doesn't seem necessary. I imagine the project is already going to be very costly. I just don't see why they don't connect it near the southern end of I-540 near Ft Smith. It will save them the money of building that stretch of land and building another bridge. There's been talk of building another 'bypass' further west of I-540 here in northwest Arkansas. If we're going to throw money around maybe we can just add that to part of the I-49 project also.

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Mith...i hear ya on the bridge...the I-540 one at Ft. Smith isn't a bad one...unless they think there's going to be THAT much traffic...

One other thing is the "attractions" (to borrow a term from the city of Orlando, FL) effect...I think a lot of people from Texas visit Eureka Springs, AR and Branson...this highway could be THE main gateway to those two areas. And again...I'll mention that the very nearby Springfield, MO area (some of its "bedroom community" school districts extend into Barry County, MO which borders Benton County...Barry, Benton and McDonald are all in that new consortium mentioned elsewhere on this forum) has been projected to grow somewhere in the range between Tulsa and Cincinnati.

Please don't underestimate what may happen in this region, and the traffic that will flow up an I-69/I-49 corridor.

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Yeah I-49 has been worked on in southwest Arkansas. NCB has stated that Lousiana is going to extend I-49 down there all the way to New Orleans. Right now it stops at Lafayette. Missouri has done work on Hwy 71 south of Kansas City. Although I though someone mentioned that it isn't up to interstate standards though. Really the main section left is in Arkansas between Texarkana and Ft Smith, through the Ouachitas. I think having it started by 2010 might be a bit optimistic. It seems most road projects in Arkansas take a while before they finally get going. Even if it were started in 2010 I would still imagine it would be quite a while before the whole thing was finished. There really aren't any sizable cities between Texarkana and Ft Smith. I'm not sure if they would work on it in sections and slowly open some of these sections up.

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