Spring I-40 work to impact traffic in east Arkansas

FORREST CITY (Times-Herald) - Traffic through Forrest City could be congested for much of this year when work begins on a long portion of Interstate 40.

Ray Woodruff, District 1 Engineer with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said construction crews will begin working to replace all four lanes of I-40 this spring and spend close to a year on the project. The construction will begin just east of the Hwy. 1 Bypass and continue to the Hwy. 38 exit at Widener.

"We've got a lot of bond work that will start this spring on the interstate, and that is going to be a pretty big project. It will be pretty similar to what is going on over around the White River where they've moved all of the traffic over to one side of the interstate while they work on the other side. They're going to resurface that entire area and go down about two inches to replace the pavement," said Woodruff.

Woodruff said the similarity between the project here and the one near the White River could also be traffic problems created by the construction.

"This project is going to take about a year to finish, and just like over at the White River, I expect you're going to see some travel delays and backup through here. When people get off of I-40 near Forrest City, they're going to take Hwy. 70 to get around it, which will route them straight through Forrest City. That could create another set of issues," said Woodruff.

Resurfacing will not be the only work taking place on I-40 during the year. According to Woodruff, crews will also install the median safety cable while the other construction is taking place, and the Hwy. 38 overpass in Widener will be replaced.

"We have finished that first section of the safety cable, and that section of cable will be put in at the same time all of the other work is going on so that we can try to take advantage of the traffic already being slowed down for construction. The original bond plan called for the replacement of the Hwy. 38 overpass, the Palestine overpass and the Wheatley overpass. We're going to go ahead and incorporate the Hwy. 38 project in this work," said Woodruff.

Woodruff said an overpass project already under way in St. Francis County is still several months from completion. Construction crews started working to replace the overpass at Shell Lake last fall.

"That project is moving forward as well as it can for this time of year. Weather tends to slow things down some, but they are working. That project probably won't be finished until late this year, maybe December, or early next year," said Woodruff.

Work is also slated to begin later this year in Lee County on the next phase of the expansion on Hwy. 1.

"That project should start this summer and will start just south of the Lon Mann Experiment Station and go over to Cypress Corner. Once we have that done, we'll just have that last stretch from Cypress Corner over to Walnut Corner before that project will finally be complete," said Woodruff.

The expansion project started in 1991, opening portions of Hwy. 1 from two lanes to three to five lanes from Jonesboro to Walnut Corner. The final segment of the project will be a six-mile portion from Cypress Corner to Walnut Corner in Phillips County.

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