BY LEANN DILBECK
The I-49 International Coalition met with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently to discuss future highway funding necessary to complete I-49 in Arkansas. Local businessman and ARCO Chair Gar Eisele serves on the Coalition that was originally organized in December 2002, with representation from Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, to work collectively to promote the completion of the north-south corridor.
Currently, I-49 is 80%+ complete but Arkansas has 3 major unfinished projects, the I-49 bridge over the Arkansas River, the Bella Vista bypass and the “Missing Link” between Texarkana and Fort Smith.
I-49 is designated by the Congress as the #1 High Priority Corridor that will connect Kansas City and New Orleans; connecting in Kansas City with I-29 North, it will create a 1700 – mile uninterrupted Interstate Highway from Winnipeg, Canada, through the heart of America to New Orleans and through the port system of Louisiana, to Central and South America where trade and traffic are expected to triple in the next decade with expansion of the Panama Canal.
From Winnipeg, going South, this Interstate trade route intersects existing East – West Interstates I-94 (Fargo), I-90 (Sioux Falls), I-80 (Omaha), I-70 (Kansas City), I-44 (Joplin), I-40 (Fort Smith), I-30 (Texarkana), I-20 (Shreveport), and I-10 (Lafayette) on the way to New Orleans and other ports on the Gulf Coast. The result is a comprehensive transportation grid to enhance the movement of food, goods, energy and people to and from anywhere in Mid – America and the rest of the world.
“All of America, and especially Mid – America, will benefit from increased safety, trade, tourism and economic development upon completion of I-49,” said Gard Wayt, the executive director of the Coalition.
The Coalition presently has over 100 members: cities, counties, Chambers of Commerce, associations, businesses and individuals.