Lack of a frontage road paralleling U.S. 63 in parts of Poinsett County, Ark., will pose safety and access problems when the highway is eventually designated as Interstate 555, County Judge Doyle Hillis says.
Farm equipment and some trucks that use the highway now won’t be able to travel at the minimum speed of 45 mph set by federal standards for interstate highways, Hillis said, and would present safety hazards amid traffic moving at 70 mph.
Width restrictions requiring a special permit for vehicles wider than 8 feet could also hamper travel of farm equipment, he said.
The state Highway and Transportation Department says 44 miles of highway between I-55 in Crittenden County and Jonesboro is to be designated I-555 next year, once work is completed on projects upgrading the road to interstate standards.
While areas near Marked Tree and Tyronza have some frontage-road access, Hillis said farmers and other business owners may have to seek other ways to travel through the area. Of particular concern, he said, is a way for vehicles not allowed on the interstate to cross the low-lying St. Francis River floodway northwest of Marked Tree.
“It will cost around $15 million to build a road across the floodway,” Hillis said.
State highway officials say they have no plans now – because they have no money now – to build a frontage road across the floodway.
Highway and Transportation Department engineer Joe Barnett said, however, that department officials are aware of the situation.
Some of that awareness may stem from a session last October in which U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, whose district includes the area, went with two cotton farmers to talk with highway officials at Little Rock. The farmers said they feared they would have to travel 40 to 50 miles further between their fields and cotton gins that process their crop.
Flowers said after that meeting that everyone agreed there was a problem and that they are working to reach a resolution.
Ritter Arnold of Marked Tree, a gin-owner who attended the meeting with Flowers, said that, on a recent trip to Washington with officials of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, federal officials were receptive to the frontage road project. He said the change in control of Congress from Republicans to Democrats seemed to have improved the outlook for the project.
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