Tuesday, May 30, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Progress Continues

The $200 million Hwy. 67/167 improvement project from Redmond Road in Jacksonville to Hwy. 5 in Cabot is moving forward, perhaps more slowly than we’d like, but steady progress continues. The massive work will not only improve traffic here but will usher in an economic boom along the highway and beyond.

About 150 people turned out last week at the Jacksonville Community Center to review and discuss plans with state Highway and Transportation Department specialists for widening Hwy. 67/167 from the Main Street overpass to the Vandenberg Boulevard interchange — the last of a four-phase project from I-40 to Hwy. 5.

This phase will improve 2.25 miles of Hwy. 67/167, including interchanges at Main Street, James Street, Gregory Street and Vandenberg Boulevard at a cost of $122 million. The work is slated to begin in 2019 and set for completion in 2022.

Preliminary work has begun on the segment from north of Vandenberg Boulevard to Cabot. The Thursday meeting was to discuss the final link — and perhaps the most challenging — from the Main Street overpass to the Vandenberg interchange.

The widening project — from two lanes north and two south to three lanes each direction — began with the section from I-40, past McCain Boulevard and Kiehl Avenue to just south of Redmond Road and was completed a while back.

The second phase, beginning at the Redmond Road interchange and running just north of the Main Street overpass, is well underway and should be done sometime next year.

The widening requires replacing bridges and overpasses along the way, changing the alignment of on- and off-ramps and the conversion of T.P. White and John Harden frontage roads between Main Street and Vandenberg Boulevard to one-way frontage roads.

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

The new interchange is where Hwy. 67/167 intersects with Hwy. 38. Manhattan Road and Bridge Company of Tulsa was awarded the $25.5 million contract.

All in all, these highway projects are as impressive as the Big Rock interchange, the last major work in west Little Rock. It’s our turn now.