By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer
The Cabot Chamber of Commerce’s state Highway Commission appreciation banquet on Tuesday at First Baptist Church was an occasion to reflect on traffic improvement with the teamwork of city, county and state officials.
Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams gave an update on the north interchange. He received word from Rep. Marion Berry’s office that Congress could vote on funding for the interchange, possibly by November.
Money was allocated for the project last year but went to road projects in Clay County. If the legislature votes on it, $1.1 million will be used for right-of-way purchases and engineering for the new interchange. The state Highway Department has signed an order to start the process on the interchange.
The mayor presented a video on traffic-improvement projects in the city over the past year.
One project was adding a right-turn lane at the intersection of Hwy. 321 and Kerr Station Road. During a 45-minute span, morning traffic could not clear the intersection. Vehicles would back up north on Kerr Station to the Comfort Estates subdivision.
About $30,000 was spent on the road work. The mayor said it was an important small project that made traffic flow better.
Another road project was rerouting the Hwy. 67/167 southbound exit 16 off-ramp from Hwy. 5 to Rockwood Road. Construction took 60 days.
“It was one of the most dangerous intersections in Lonoke County and in Arkansas. Now it is one of the safest. It freed the intersection up,” the mayor said.
A third project discussed was the extension of Willie Ray Drive to Ernie Davis Drive in Austin. Williams said it was a team effort with Judge Charlie Troutman and Lonoke County. He said the road was important for future development.
The mayor then focused the attention to improvements along Hwy. 5. The traffic signals at Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 89 intersection have reduced fatalities.
A turning lane was built on Hwy. 5 at Mountain Springs Road for traffic going to the new elementary school. Williams said the school district was committed to making it happen. The district paid for almost all of the costs for the additional lane.
Lastly, Williams showed the Hwy. 5 and Greystone Boulevard intersection. A pedestrian cross walk and pedestrian signal light were installed to allow youngsters to cross the highway safely.
The mayor said many people made the projects happen including State Senator Bobby Glover and members of the State Highway Commission and Department.
Glover said much has been accomplished in the county with the public schools and the cooperation with municipal officials, county officials and state legislators. He said it wasn’t one individual, but all working together. For there to be economic development, there needs to be a highway program for the state.
The evening turned to recognizing members of the state Highway Department and the State Highway Commission.
Williams proclaimed this past Tuesday as Bill Harrod Day in the city. It was also his 65th birthday. Harrod retired on Monday from the State Highway Department after a 46-and-half-year career. He began working for the department as a surveyor. Since 2005 he’s been a traffic services specialist.
Harrod worked with the city on many projects.
“The relationship could not have been better,” the mayor said.
Harrod worked projects in the Cabot area including the Hwy. 38 and Lincoln Street railroad overpass and he helped complete the layout of South Rockwood Road.
Glover presented framed Senate citations and Capitol citations to both State Highway Commission Chairman Carl Rosenbaum and state Highway and Transportation Director Dan Flowers.
Cabot Chamber of Commerce president Amy Ross presented Rosenbaum with a plaque in recognition of his dedication and commitment to Cabot and the state during his 10 years as state Highway Chairman. Rosenbaum’s term expires in January 2011.