I-49 Dedication and Launch of “I-49 Build the Bridge!” Campaign Scheduled
In celebration of the U.S. Department of Transportation officially designating I-540 from Alma north to the Missouri border as Interstate 49, a dedication ceremony will be held in Crawford County on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 11:00 a.m. Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) Commissioner Dick Trammel and a number of Arkansas River Valley leaders will gather in the parking lot of Grace Church of Alma, 330 Rudy Road, Alma, Ark., to reveal one of the new I-49 interstate signs recently installed by AHTD on an Interstate 40 overpass.
Commissioner Trammel, former Arkansas State Representative Ed Thicksten, Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority executive director Ivy Owen and I-49 International Coalition executive director Gard Wayt will speak briefly about the significance of this designation to the local, state and national economy. Following their remarks, AHTD workers will unveil a new I-49 sign on the Rudy Road I-40 Overpass.
Reflecting on the significance of the recent conversion from I-540 to I-49, Commissioner Trammel says, “Development of I-49 is the future for the next generation and we hope this generation can make it happen. I-49 is important from Bella Vista to Alma to Texarkana and all of Arkansas and we need to work together to make it happen“.
The group assembling for the unveiling completely agrees with Trammel. In fact, they have a secondary mission to launch a regional “I-49 Build The Bridge!” campaign. Representatives of cities, counties, chambers of commerce and other public works entities across the western Arkansas region are banding together to show a concerted, cohesive push to secure funding for the 13-mile stretch of I-49 south of Alma that will connect at Chaffee Crossing, including a new bridge across the Arkansas River. The campaign will complement the efforts of the I-49 International Coalition to complete the remaining portions of I-49 through Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana.
Additional agencies supporting the effort include Western Arkansas Planning and Development District, Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority, Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization, Van Buren Port, statewide trucking organizations, regional Chambers of Commerce, mayors, county Quorum Courts and many businesses that recognize the economic importance of the interstate for the region. Governor Mike Beebe, who is unable to attend the June 25 ceremony, has expressed his full support of the effort.
The “I-49 Build The Bridge!” campaign is being led by former Rep. Ed Thicksten who was in the Arkansas Legislature at the time funding was appropriated for construction of I-540 between Alma and Bentonville. Thicksten says, “I think we have boundless opportunities here to move the River Valley forward just like Northwest Arkansas, and that bridge across the Arkansas River can be the key to our success.”
Interstate 49 represents 1700 miles of Interstate highway between New Orleans and Winnipeg, Canada. It is now 80% complete. The longest unfinished section is 185 miles between Fort Smith and Texarkana in Arkansas. An eight-mile section near the southwestern Missouri state line and Bella Vista, Arkansas is under construction.
The completion of I-49, particularly the 13-mile stretch from Alma to Chaffee Crossing and a new bridge over the Arkansas River, will have a dynamic effect on the Arkansas River Valley region. An organized effort to secure funding through the political process is critical. The I-49 Build the Bridge! Campaign will serve that purpose by creating a unified voice for numerous public and private entities.
An open petition affirming support for completion of the road can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Interstate49.