ArDOT provides update on status of future I-57

Updated: May. 8, 2021 at 2:09 PM EDT
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WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - For the first time in months, an update was given on the status of the future I-57. The proposed interstate would connect Highway 67 from Walnut Ridge to the Missouri state line, which would be just over 40 miles.

Officials from the Arkansas Department of Transportation met with dozens of city and county officials Friday morning at Williams Baptist University.

ArDOT officials say the planning period for the future I-57 should be over by late 2022. This after they recently began an environmental study of three proposed routes: one utilizing much of the existing Highway 67, one creating a new central location, and the other running a new location, east of the Black River.

ArDOT Director Lorie Tudor and Assistant Chief Engineer Jared Wiley say once the environmental study is complete, they’ll pick one of the three corridors to construct.

Wiley says while they don’t have a clear date as to when construction will begin, he’s excited that the project is officially underway, and they’re focused on choosing the best route.

“It’s important that we listen to everybody’s side of things,” Wiley said. “We come out and meet with the public, we hear their comments. We try to choose the route with the least amount of impacts that [serve] the greatest needs of the public.”

Wiley and Arkansas Highway Commission Vice-Chair Alec Farmer praised the passage of Issue 1, extending a half-cent tax to help improve roads.

They say that helped to get a leg up in starting the project, but funding is still a question they hope to have a clearer answer to by the end of 2022.

Officials say this project could cost anywhere between $400 to $600 million, with corridor one being the most expensive, and corridor two being the least expensive.

The choice ArDOT will make has some in the community worried about the potential negative impact.

Pocahontas Mayor Keith Sutton said his city could take an economic hit by the decision ArDOT makes.

“It could impact us pretty hard if they take Corridor 3,” Sutton said. “Of course, the closer it comes to Pocahontas, the better. Hopefully, we’re going to find out early ’22.”

Sutton says if the 3rd option is taken, that would dramatically decrease traffic in the area. Sutton joined Black River Technical College as some of the Pocahontas representatives at the meeting Friday morning.

The potential impact on Pocahontas was brought up during the Q&A session with Tudor. She says all concerns will be taken into consideration before making a decision.

Tudor added that they are early in the process, and they are welcoming any comments and concerns from the public. Like Wiley, she said it’s ultimately about choosing the least impactful route while serving the greatest needs.

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