Tuesday, December 27, 2016

EDITORIAL >> End-of-year reflections

As we do every year’s end, we find ourselves in a reflective mood, taking stock of our accomplishments, and maybe a few shortcomings, and looking forward to the year ahead.

It’s been a divisive 12 months, and we anticipate more disunity is ahead for our country. But it is time for tempers to cool and the anger to give way to reason, clarity and optimism.

We are wary of Nostradamus-like predictions, but surely 2017 will be better than 2016.

Things are looking hopeful, at least at the local level, where our communities are showing signs of prosperity to come in new building projects from schools and businesses to major road projects.

Though years in the making, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District advanced its plans this year to build a new high school and a new elementary school. Soon Jacksonville will have a first-rate high school campus at a cost of $60 million at the old middle school downtown, where demolition crews earlier this year prepared the site for construction. The school will open in August 2019.

The new district, which broke away from the Pulaski County Special School District only two years ago, is also preparing to build a new elementary school at Harris Road and General Samuels Road, which will consolidate the Tolleson and Arnold Drive campuses.

There’s a long way to go, but Jacksonville’s efforts to improve its schools and attract families is gaining momentum.

Jacksonville’s part of the widening and repaving of Hwy. 67/167 will continue into 2017. We hope it will encourage commercial development on both sides of the highway.

Eventually the access roads will be made one way, which should improve safety and traffic. It will be nice to have those often confusing yield signs gone.

The project will also replace the James Street overpass and add another north of there somewhere near North Bailey Boulevard to connect to John Harden Drive.

The Hwy. 67/167 widening from the air base exit to the Hwy. 5 exit will soon be getting underway at a cost of $79 million. A new interchange in north Cabot will be built for $25.5 million, with the city paying $10 million of the cost.

Mayor Bill Cypert said it was the “biggest news in decades.” He also thinks it will spur development in the next decade.

The highway project is likely to continue up to Searcy, making driving to Cabot, Ward and Beebe less bumpy and less congested.

Hwy. 67/167 has already been revamped from I-40 in North Little Rock and through Sherwood and continuing into Jacksonville, which is getting two new overpasses at Main Street and Redmond Road with more widening of the highway in two years.

Cabot also opened its new $13.5 million sports complex and swimming pool this year.

Those are some highlights that will link this year to next year. We hope to have more good news like this to share at the end of 2017.