Friday, June 27, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Road work: Use caution

Major highway construction will soon start along Hwy. 67/167, easing traffic congestion between Jacksonville and Cabot and beyond. In addition, a north interchange between Cabot and Austin will not only help traffic there but also boost economic development in the area.

The improvements might inconvenience thousands of motorists, but the road widening and new overpasses in Jacksonville will move traffic as fast as the widening project in recent years from McCain Boulevard to Jacksonville.

The state Highway Commission has awarded a $42 million contract to James Construction Group of Baton Rouge, La., to replace both the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses in Jacksonville with wider, safer overpasses that will accommodate three lanes of traffic north and south, along with a substantial shoulder at Main Street.

Along with widening the two overpasses, the 1.3-mile job also calls for new approaches and ramps for the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses, and a new stretch of highway between them.

Construction is scheduled to begin in two to four weeks, weather permitting.

As many as 5,000 vehicles a day will have to find alternative routes off the highway on Municipal Drive past city hall and the community center. Commuters might need to figure some alternative routes that include Hwy. 161 to or from I-40, use of Hwy. 440, or, farther north, another route including Hwy. 89.

In addition to the 1.3-mile redo that includes the two overpasses, construction is set to begin on seven miles of Hwy. 67/167 between Jacksonville and Hwy. 5 at Cabot. The roadway will be repaired, but only two lanes deep in each direction. It’s a temporary fix until the highway is widened and resurfaced beginning in 2019. The resurfacing contract was awarded to Chester Bross Construction of Hannibal, Mo., for $2,696,218.

The $61 million reconstruction and widening between Main Street and Vandenberg Boulevard is scheduled to begin in 2016. The $70 million project between Vandenberg Boulevard and Hwy. 5 is scheduled for 2019.

Hwy. 67/167 is already a six-lane highway from I-40 to Redmond Road, and widening the highway from Main Street to Vandenberg is slated to begin in two years, about the time work will be completed on the Redmond Road-Main Street section.

Meanwhile, the design and environmental work has begun and traffic signals are being installed at the intersection of Hwy. 367 and Hwy. 38 at Cabot for what’s known as the North Terminal Intersection, according to Cabot City Director Eddie Cook.

That will connect a loop around the city to a new interchange on Hwy. 67/167.

The city is providing $9.2 million of the $20 million project to allow continued growth in the area without further congestion on Hwy. 89 running through Cabot. The project got moved up because Cabot was able to contribute nearly 50 percent to it, Cook said.

The new interchange will allow significant growth in the northwest sector of the city between the highway and state Hwy. 5, and north of state Hwy. 89 west.

That should be completed in 2018. Let’s also add the new $7.9 million interchange at I-40 in Lonoke, which will attract new businesses and residents in that growing area.

Another project will resurface 1.5 miles of roadway on James Street in Jacksonville from near Woolfort to East Maddox Road and from Harpole Street to West Main Street. Redstone Construction Group of Little Rock was awarded the contract at $201,249.

This project is being funded through the State Aid City Streets Program approved by lawmakers in 2011 and voters in 2012. This program provides $20 million annually from the state motor-fuels tax to assist cities with road projects selected by a panel of Arkansas mayors.

Credit goes to all our local mayors and legislators for making these major road projects possible.