This from here: http://www.aaroads.com/high-priority/corr01.html
Interstate 49 in Arkansas and Texas
Check out Adam Froehlig's Future Interstate 49 Exit List.
The path of Interstate 49 in Arkansas is most likely to follow U.S. 71 and U.S. 59 from Louisiana through Arkansas. Communities served by Interstate 49 will include Barling, Greenwood, Mansfield, Waldron, Mena, De Queen, Ashdown, and Texarkana; in fact, these communities have banded together an "Interstate 49 Working Group" to help plan the new Interstate's path through western Arkansas. Like many other new highways, Interstate 49 has been rather controversial, as some residents are opposed to the multi-lane, divided freeway in their rural region. There is a brief cut into Texas near the Red River north of Texarkana.
Interstate 49 Routing in Arkansas (and Texas): Featuring Interstates 130 and 540
The official planned routing for Interstate 49 in Arkansas and Texas, as reported by Adam Froehlig and Jeremy Lance is as follows:
From the Louisiana-Arkansas State Line to Texarkana, Interstate 49 will follow U.S. 71, including a couple of "crossovers" over U.S. 71. Interstate 49 will pass by towns such as Doddridge, Fouke, and Mount Pleasant.
It will tie into the currently under-construction section (as of Summer 2000) of Arkansas State Route 245 (Future Interstate 130) right where State Route 245 makes a turn between going northeast and going straight west. This is about a half mile south of the current U.S. 71/Arkansas State Route 245 interchange. Interstate 49 will go east of Texarkana, utilizing most of Arkansas State Route 245. On January 10, 2001, the Arkansas Highway Department announced that the Arkansas Loop 245 limited access freeway will be designated as Interstate 130 upon completion of the highway from Interstate 30 to U.S. 71. According to the accompanying press release, "The 5.8-mile portion of Loop 245 from I-30 to U.S. Highway 71 in Texarkana will feature signs designating the highway as 'Future I-130' until the route is completed to full Interstate standards." Arkansas Highway Commissioner Mary P. "Prissy" Hickerson stated, "This Interstate Spur route will greatly enhance travel between I-30 and the industrial areas of Texarkana and would ultimately become a part of the overall route from Kansas City to Shreveport." This statement verifies that Interstate 130 (Arkansas 245) will ultimately become part of Interstate 49.
Between U.S. 67 and Interstate 30 (just south of Arkansas Boulevard), Interstate 49 will leave the Arkansas State Route 245 routing and swing east to a new interchange with Interstate 30 about 1.5 miles east of the existing Interstate 30/Arkansas State Route 245 interchange.
Interstate 49 will continue north of Interstate 30, cutting west. It crosses the Texas State Line about 3.5 miles north of Interstate 30, intersects the western Texarkana loop, and then heads northwest to cross the Red River. Total length in Texas will be about six miles.
It will bypass Ashdown and Wilton to the west. However, the new freeway will utilize the existing U.S. 59/71 "Miller's Crossing" of the Little River and its flood plain at Cossatot National Wildlife Refuge.
Cutting northwest in the vicinity of Lockesburg, Interstate 49 will intersect U.S. 59/70/71 (and maybe U.S. 371) about three miles east of DeQueen.
Between DeQueen and Mena, Interstate 49 generally stays east of U.S. 59/71, sometimes as much as 5.5 miles east, and nicks the western edge of that part of Ouachita National Forest south of Mena. Interchanges for the freeway are planned at Gillham, Grannis, U.S. 278/Wickes, Arkansas State Route 246/Vandervoort, West Mena, Arkansas State Route 8/Mena, and Arkansas State Route 88/Mena.
Interstate 49 will bypass Mena to the south and east.
North of Mena, Interstate 49 will use the existing U.S. 71/270 corridor going up Fourche Mountain. Not sure if it will use the roadbed itself or use a parallel roadbed going up the mountain ... that decision will probably not be made until the final design is completed - so for now, this is just speculation. There will be an interchange at the south end of Fourche Mountain, at County Route 70, before Interstate 49 makes the trip up with U.S. 71/270.
Heading back down the mountain on the north side, Interstate 49 will start off using the existing corridor, before dipping slightly southeast (the corridor runs southwest/northeast at this immediate point), but kicks back over to the west side of U.S. 71/270 where the U.S. routes make a sharp turn just west of Y City. There will be an interchange at this crossover.
North of U.S. 270, Interstate 49 stays generally west of U.S. 71, bypassing west of Boles and Waldron, but it crosses U.S. 71 twice over to the east side and bypasses Mansfield and Huntington to the east (going northwest here). It continues northwesterly up to Arkansas State Route 10, which it intersects about halfway between Hackett and U.S. 71. Interchanges planned at Arkansas State Route 80/Waldron, Arkansas State Route 378, U.S. 71/Mansfield, U.S. 71 (just north of Arkansas State Route 252), and Arkansas State Route 10. Also an interchange at Arkansas State Route 28 (between Arkansas State Route 80 and Arkansas State Route 378).
North of Arkansas State Route 10, Interstate 49 flows north, then intersects U.S. 71 one more time before turning northeast to go through Fort Chaffe. Interchanges are planned at U.S. 71, Custer Blvd (in Fort Chaffe) and Arkansas State Route 22.
North of Arkansa State Route 22, Interstate 49 curves more northerly, and crosses the Arkansas River almost straight north-south, then curves back northeasterly to east of Kibler, then back northwest to finish up at Interstate 40. Two interchanges are planned in this section: one just north of the river at Gun Club Road (a connector to Arkansas State Route 59) and the other at Kibler.
Just north of Kibler, Interstate 49 will tie into Interstate 540 directly.
From that point northward, Interstate 49 will replace Interstate 540 from Alma to Bentonville. It will intersect U.S. 412 (High Priority Corridor 8) at the proposed U.S. 412 Springdale Bypass.
U.S. 71 will be bypassed north of Bentonville around Bella Vista to carry Interstate 49 into Missouri. On July 10, 1999, the region's congressman and the state highway commissioner told local officials that if they want a bypass around the town of Bella Vista, they may have to wait until Interstate 49 is constructed. Local officials had hoped for better news, because they believe that the bypass to relieve present traffic congestion should not have to wait to be a part of a long-term freeway project like Interstate 49. The cost of the project, in 1999 dollars, is $186 million. Local politicians are unsure that they could secure this money without tying the bypass project to the Interstate 49 corridor.
The recommended alternative for the Bella Vista Bypass from the U.S. 71/U.S.71B interchange north to Pineville, Missouri, is the "Far West" alternative. From U.S. 71/U.S. 71B, it runs westerly to near Hiwasse, then gradually turns north to enter Missouri and intersect the planned section near Pineville. Interchanges are planned at County Route 39 (south Bella Vista), two interchanges at Arkansas State Route 72 (on either side of Hiwasse), County Route 34 (Bella Vista), Missouri State Route 90, and Route H.
The preferred alternative includes "short-term/interim" improvements, namely intersection improvements along existing U.S. 71 in Bella Vista and four-laning existing U.S. 71 between the Missouri State Line and Pineville.
Much of new construction for Interstate 49 will occur between Texarkana and Fort Smith. The cost of constructing this segment has been estimated at $1.8 billion (1999 dollars), according to a July 1999 newspaper article. More than a billion of this total is slated for the DeQueen to Interstate 40 section. This money was not appropriated in the TEA-21 bill of 1998, and it is unlikely that any other federal money will be tied to this project at least until 2003, which is the next year in which the federal highway bill comes up for discussion in Congress.
For more information, check out Build Interstate 49 (Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce), a pro-Interstate 49 site from Arkansas.
Around Texarkana, plans for the Interstate 49 project also include a western loop of Texarkana, utilizing the U.S. 59 freeway section and the south part of Interstate 130/Arkansas 245.
Scott Dennis saw the Interstate 130/Arkansas 245 construction project from his airplane in summer 1999. "The current construction project southeast of Texarkana is extending Arkansas 245. The construction goes south of the city, where there is a large interchange being built pointing southeast toward Louisiana, and then back west to Texas." The construction he saw is mostly related to the construction of this future Interstate 49 western bypass, which would enter Texas.
Funding for Interstate 49
It is unclear how Interstate 49 will be funded in Arkansas. Proposals have ranged from diverting money from existing projects to implementing tolls on the future Interstate.
In this excerpt from the July 8, 1999, edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article, "Lawmakers, commissioners tour route of proposed Interstate 49" by Doug Thompson, it is clear that politicians are very interested in completing Interstate 49 as soon as possible, perhaps at the expense of other proposed highways (such as Interstate 69). U.S. Representatives Asa Hutchinson of Fort Smith and Jay Dickey of Pine Bluff, three members of the state Highway Commission, and state Highway and Transportation Department Director Dan Flowers went on a bus tour of 170 miles of U.S. 71.
According to the article, "Some competition will be from supporters of a proposal to build Interstate 69 across south Arkansas, the commissioners and Dickey said. The best way to resolve the conflict is to get Interstate 49 done, Dickey said. "Then we can concentrate our full energies on Interstate 69," he said. For Interstate 49, environmental impact studies have been done, and the route has been selected, Flowers said. The highway would incorporate Interstate 540 between Fayetteville and Fort Smith. Interstate 49 would pick up where Interstate 540 ends at Fort Smith and would continue south to link with a similar project in Louisiana. Also, Interstate 540 would have to be extended north to Missouri. Cost of the project "from state line to state line" would be $1.8 billion, Flowers said."
Oklahoma has considerable experience with toll roads with its turnpike system. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette series of articles on Interstate 49, Arkansas State Highway Department financial analysts studied Oklahoma's experience closely. The analysts found that "tolls need to raise at least 60 percent of the total construction and maintenance costs over a 40-year period to be a better financing option than simply waiting and lobbying for federal money in the next highway bill. Tolls on parts of proposed Interstate 49 would, at best, raise 15 percent of the construction and maintenance costs in areas near Fort Smith and other towns. Tolls on the freeway as a whole would raise about three percent of the total needed, since traffic would avoid the road if tolls were raised too high. Tolls are able to raise enough money to maintain a road after it is built, Barnett said, but they are a poor means of raising the money to build one unless they are near a major city that generates very heavy traffic."
In the June 28, 2000, article "Highway panel raps I-49 funding plan," in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by Noel E. Oman, the Interstate 49 Roadbuilders Coalition proposeda toll financing plan to the Arkansas State Highway Commission. In their study, the Roadbuilders Coalition indicated that a combination of bonds and loans financed partly by tolls could pay for construction of the Texarkana-to-Fort Smith section of Interstate 49. At that time, the state's share of the project was estimated to be around $106 million. Under the Roadbuilders Coalition plan, tolls would repay federal loans and bonds used to cover the difference.
The State Highway Commission indicated that the project would be $3.5 billion in the red over the life of its 40-year financing based on its analysis of the Roadbuilders Coalition Plan. This analysis was based on the notion that the Roadbuilders Coalition's toll-revenue projections reflected traffic estimates that assumed the route would be a toll-free route. If constructed as a toll facility, studies have shown that motorists avoid toll routes when free alternatives are required, so based on this information, the traffic counts would be lower than projected by the Coalition.
It is likely that the state will lobby heavily for Interstates 49 and 69 in the discussions related to the next transportation reauthorization bill, which is scheduled for 2003 (five years after TEA-21 of 1998).
North of Fort Smith, Interstate 49 will follow the new Interstate (formerly Arkansas) 540 and U.S. 71 freeways. Although numerically it is close to the Interstate 540 spur in Fort Smith, it is almost certainly a temporary designation so Arkansas will not have to move the U.S. 71 designation onto the new road and then back off of it again.
Only Interstate 540 between north of Alma and Fayetteville along with the U.S. 71 bypass to Bella Vista is part of Corridor 1 and the proposed routing of Interstate 49. The original Interstate 540 from Van Buren to Ft. Smith is not part of the Interstate 49 corridor. Plans call for Interstate 49 to bypass Ft. Smith to the east near Alma, complete with a new bridge over the Arkansas River. AHTD says that the traffic count along Interstate 540 through Ft. Smith would be too great, and the new Interstate 49 would help alleviate the traffic problems created by the rapid eastward expansion of Fort Smith. Additionally, the original Interstate 540 is a four-lane freeway with little or no room for expansion. Connecting the original Interstate 540 to the future Interstate 49 in the south would require the expensive development of land at the south end to make a freeway extension.
Jeremy Lance took Interstate 540 just after it was signed in early January 1999. The first three exits north of Interstate 40 are for Arkansas 282. The first northbound exit is signed for U.S. 71 "Scenic Byway," although U.S. 71 is a couple of miles to the east at this point. As late as January 1999, a few stray Arkansas 540 signs remained in places, but they were gone (ity) before spring 1999. Jeremy remarks, "The tunnels are awesome! There are no warning signs of any kind, with the exception of one of those light up changeable signs, which was not lit up. The tunnels are very well lit, and probably a half-mile long. The mountains above the tunnels are not very high."
When Interstate 540 approaches Fayetteville, there is a seamless transition from the new road onto the old U.S. 71 bypass at Fayetteville. There is no exit to southbound U.S. 71 here. According to David Backlin, the "U.S. 71S" exit off southbound Interstate 540 has been changed to read U.S. 71.
AASHTO (The Association of American State Highway and Transportation Organizations) is responsible for the designation and signing of most Interstate and U.S. highways. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) petitioned AASHTO in late 1997 and early 1998 for permission to sign the Interstate (Arkansas) 540 construction as Interstate 49, but AASHTO rejected the petition. Since AHTD wanted this road to be part of the Interstate Highway System, AHTD petitioned AASHTO for permission to sign the road as a northern extension of Interstate 540 in 1998. As more segments of the U.S. 71 is completed, I suspect the Interstate 49 designation will be approved by AASHTO in the future.
Notably, Arkansas is becoming a crossroads for major highways, as it is the recipient of not only the U.S. 71 high priority corridor but also Interstate 69 and U.S. 412, if those projects go through.