I-49 Set to Divert Traffic From Treacherous U.S. 71, Save Lives

One coalition wants to put the highway on the fast track.

Mon December 23, 2013 - Southeast Edition
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TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) The head of a coalition that supports the construction of a controlled access highway through western Arkansas said the roadway should be built soon so travelers can be safer and the region can enjoy greater economic development.

Curt Green said in a story published in the Texarkana Gazette on Nov. 25 that Interstate 49 is needed “for commerce, economic development, hurricane evacuation, national defense and national security.’’

He also said the roadway would be safer than the winding U.S. 71, which links southern and northern Arkansas on the state’s western side.

“Highway 71 is considered a most dangerous road,’’ Green, from Texarkana, Texas, and the president of the I-49 International Coalition, told members of the Arkansas Senate and House Joint Transportation Committee. “I do not know anyone in Texarkana, Ark., who has not lost someone on 71. It’s a very bad highway.’’

Green, who also owns the commercial real estate firm Curt Green & Company LLC, said he still remembers a bumper sticker that reflected the concern about the highway’s safety. The bumper sticker read, “I travel U.S. 71 in Arkansas. Pray for me,’’ Green said.

Green said current work on Interstate 69 and U.S. 59 in Texas will turn Texarkana into more of an economic hub and that I-49 is needed to move goods farther north.

“Having 69 ending right here in Texarkana will mean cargo coming in from Harlingen and Corpus Christi,’’ he said. “This will mean that we are going to be dumping a tremendous amount of traffic and cargo to Texarkana.’’

Portions of I-49 are already complete in Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri, though in Arkansas the sections are known as I-540 and I-549. When complete, the four-lane highway will connect New Orleans and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Green said the I-49 project is 80 percent complete but additional funds are needed to make the entire roadway a reality.

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