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Connecting Arkansas to Future Highway I-69

By: Zoie Clift, CEG CORRESPONDENT

The interchange entails construction of four connector bridges with a total length of 3,770 ft. (1,149 m).
The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) is in the midst of constructing a 38.5-mi. (61.9 km) road designed to connect Interstate 530 in Pine Bluff to U.S. 278 in Wilmar.
According to Ernie Westfall, AHTD District Two construction engineer, equipment on this section of the project includes American Cranes models 999, 7250, 5299, 5300 and 9260,

A large-scale project with a long-range scope is in the works in Arkansas.

The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) is in the midst of constructing a 38.5-mi. (61.9 km) road designed to connect Interstate 530 in Pine Bluff to U.S. 278 in Wilmar. The connector is being built to provide easy access to the future Interstate 69, which will connect north and south portions of the country via southeast Arkansas.

When initially calculated in the mid to late 1990s, the connector road was expected to cost $300 million but that amount has increased to around $620 million due to overall increased construction costs. According to Glen Bolick, AHTD spokesperson, the highway will be initially built as a two-lane roadway, but right of way has been purchased to accommodate future widening to four-lanes.

In 2006 AHTD completed the first segment of the road, a 4.5-mi. (7.2 km) stretch between Wilmar and I-35.

The most visible part of the connector, the I-530/I-69 Interchange in Pine Bluff, is slated to cost $25 million. The contract for grading and structures for the interchange is being led by Jensen Construction, a heavy and highway contractor based out of Des Moines, Iowa. Work on this portion of the project began in the summer of 2007 and is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

“With the wettest season ever still hanging on that could obviously be delayed since this is a new location job that includes a lot of dirt work,” said Bolick.


The interchange entails construction of four connector bridges with a total length of 3,770 ft. (1,149 m). According to Phil Brand, head of the Bridge Division for AHTD, three of the four bridges in the interchange are horizontally curved, continuous steel plate girder bridges supported by either one or two column piers with driven piling foundations.

“The shoulder widths on the inside radius of these bridges was increased to 13 feet in order to meet sight distance requirements,” said Brand.

The fourth bridge is a tangent, continuous steel W-beam unit, supported by two column piers with driven piling foundation.

According to Ernie Westfall, AHTD District Two construction engineer, equipment on this section of the project includes American Cranes models 999, 7250, 5299, 5300 and 9260, a Pileco D19-42 pile hammer, a Link Belt 2800 trackhoe, a Skytrak 8042 lift, a Komatsu D41P dozer, Cat dozers models D4H, D6M, D6E, and D7G, John Deere 6030 tractors, Cat 130G motorgrader, a Cat CS-433C roller, a Tampo RP28 roller and a Bidwell finisher.

Westfall said there are up to 30 bridge workers and 15 grading workers currently working on the project.

The interstate is planned to stretch 3,000 mi.(4,828 km), connecting Canada and Mexico, and is estimated to cost around $22 billion. The proposed highway has been divided into 21 sections, which are in various stages of planning, design and construction. A portion, 185 mi. (297 km) is planned for construction through Arkansas and is estimated to cost $2.5 billion. The idea for I-69 initiated in 1991 and plans for the connector came about eight years later when former Congressman Jay Dickey landed $100 million in federal funds for the state.

Along with the interchange at I-530, a segment near the Pinebergen community is under construction and two other planned segments are not yet in progress.