LITTLE ROCK (5-24)
A major hurdle has been cleared in Arkansas’ quest for the construction of proposed Interstate 69 in south Arkansas, according to Dan Flowers, Director of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD).
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a Record of Decision, or ROD, for the segment of I-69 from Highway 65 near McGehee to Highway 82 just west of El Dorado. The ROD is the FHWA’s final approval of the Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, which evaluated several alternative alignments for the new highway before selecting the approved route.
The announcement of the receipt of the ROD was made at the Arkansas Highway Commission’s May 24th meeting in Little Rock while meeting with a delegation from southeast Arkansas.
“The Environmental Impact Statement is a very large and detailed document, and years of hard work went into its preparation,” stated Flowers. “It’s great to receive this approval. The public now has a good idea of exactly where this highway will eventually be built.”
The selected route begins at Highway 65 just north of McGehee and proceeds westward, moving just to the south of Monticello and Warren, and to the north of Hermitage. The route crosses Highway 7 north of Louann before turning south and tying into existing Highway 82 about ten miles west of El Dorado. Total length is approximately 103 miles, and the estimated cost to construct this segment is over $780 million.
Interstate 69 currently exists from Port Huron, Michigan, near Detroit, to Indianapolis, Indiana. From Indianapolis southward to the Mexican border near Laredo, Texas, the proposed Interstate highway has been divided into 32 sections of independent utility, or SIU’s, which are in various stages of planning, design, and construction. When completed, I-69 will be over 2,700 miles in length. Construction estimates for the entire route are now approximately $17 billion.
Four of the SIU’s are located either totally or partially in Arkansas:
ROD’s have been received for SIU’s 12, 13, and 28. Preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement is currently underway for SIU 14 with completion of the document expected this summer. Total estimated cost for Arkansas’ portion of I-69 is approximately $1.7 billion, with a total length of 185 miles.
The next step for the section from McGehee to El Dorado will be to begin the more detailed highway design work. As the design progresses, meetings will be held along the route to gather public input and show citizens in much greater detail how individual properties will be impacted. Once the design is complete, right of way appraisal and acquisition can begin, followed by construction when funding becomes available. No target date for the beginning of construction has been set at this time.