Highway Department releases five-year plan for improvements

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (ASHTD) has released a draft of its five-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for public review.

The report lists 16 projects for Poinsett County, most of which are system preservation projects. Two of the projects are for 38.86 miles of system preservation along I-555 from I-55 to Jonesboro, which includes Crittenden, Poinsett, and Craighead counties. These projects, slated for 2017 and 2018, are estimated to cost $10,000,000 and $37,800,000.

The other 14 projects in Poinsett County total an estimated $27,300,000. One of the major projects listed is a major widening of Highway 69 in Trumann between Highways 63 and 463. Currently, this widening is scheduled for 2019 at an estimated cost of $9,000,000. According to Trumann Mayor Barbara Lewallen, this project has been in the works for a long time.

Lewallen said this project was originally approved in 2004 and was set to be done in 2008, but if the highway department does not have the funds, some projects get bumped from the list. Because of the financial crisis of 2008, the highway department did not have funds to widen Highway 69.

Since then, Lewallen said she and others have periodically asked the highway department about the project. This year, she sent a letter asking the project be added to the highway department's plan and sent a follow-up letter with basic information about the road such as what's located on it, the amount of traffic, and how dangerous it is. Highway 69 is a high traffic road for Trumann, but it is also a narrow road with ditches on either side, making it dangerous for pedestrians and bicycle traffic. There is also little room for traffic to pull over when ambulances and police need to get through.

"I got an email from Scott Bennett (Director of ASHTD) who said it was being added to the list," Lewallen said. "But even if it is approved, they must have the budget for it."

Lewallen said she hopes there is funding for the project because it is much needed. "It is in the plan, and I certainly hope it will happen because Highway 69 is the main artery into town," Lewallen said. "It's really becoming very congested."

Other projects for Poinsett include work on structure and approaches for Highway 308 at Ditch number 1 and 47, as well as system preservation for 555, 149, 163, 463, 69, 49, 135, and 308B. The highway department's complete STIP draft for 2016-2020 can viewed or commented on at the ASHTD's website at: http://www.arkansashighways.com/stip/stip.aspx

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