Friday, December 16, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Road work continues

The Arkansas Highway Department this week approved bids for a new interchange for Cabot and widening Hwy. 67/167 from Jacksonville to Cabot totaling about $100 million. They are part of an ambitious Hwy. 67/167 improvement project from Redmond Road in Jacksonville to Hwy. 5 in Cabot costing an estimated $200 million.

The Highway Department will spend slightly more than $25 million on the long-desired third Cabot interchange on the northern side of the city. The city is covering $10 million of that cost through funds raised through its 2013 bond issue.

The new interchange will be constructed where Hwy. 67/167 intersects with Hwy. 38. Manhattan Road and Bridge Company of Tulsa was awarded the $25.5 million contract. Construction is scheduled to begin in two to four weeks, weather permitting.

The bid calls for the project to be completed 610 work days after the contract is awarded, probably at the end of 2019.

Better roads and infrastructure are certain to bring an economic boost to the area. Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert called the latest announcement the “biggest news in decades.”

Not only will the construction be a boon to Cabot and Jacksonville, Cypert said it will open up numerous development possibilities for Cabot and surrounding communities, including new businesses and subdivisions.

“We expect the interchange to bring significant growth to the northwest sector of the city between Hwy. 67/167 and Hwy. 5 and north of Hwy. 89 as it will open up land for residential and commercial development,” the mayor said.

Cypert said that he expected the new interchange to be fully developed within 10 years like the other two city interchanges.

“This interchange is part of our long-range transportation plans,” the mayor said. He explained that once open it would take a lot of traffic off Main Street and other city streets, ma-king it easier to visit our Main Street businesses.”

The Highway Department is also spending $79 million to six-lane and resurface Hwy. 67/167 from Exit 11 (the Air Force Base exit) to Exit 16 (the Heber Springs/Cabot interchange). Weaver-Bailey Contractors, Inc. of El Paso was awarded the contract.

The James Construction Group of Baton Rouge, La., is replacing the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses on Hwy. 67/167 for $42 million. They will be wider, with three lanes of traffic north and south.

The company is also building new approaches and ramps for the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses as well as a new stretch of highway between them.
The widening and resurfacing will continue from Main Street to Vandenberg Boulevard for $61 million starting in two years.

This phase was to come before the widening from the air base exit to Hwy. 5, but right-of-way-issues from Main Street to Vandenberg have delayed this phase of the project.
Two lanes in each direction have been resurfaced by Chester Bross Construction of Hannibal, Mo., for $2.69 million.

Let’s hope widening of Hwy. 67/167 will continue from Cabot through Beebe, along with a Hwy. 89 improvement plan from Cabot to Mayflower that would serve as alternative to now-abandoned North Belt Loop.

Many thanks to our local legislators for making these improvements possible and funding a badly needed stimulus program for our area.