BY LEANN DILBECK –
State Representative John Maddox [R-District 20] was successful in introducing and passing a house resolution, HR1018, before the 91st General Assembly last week. HR1018 encourages the expansion of the I-49 North-South corridor to improve accessibility and create economic prosperity.
The resolution garnered the support of 55 co-sponsors. The resolution was adopted and a copy is being provided to the Arkansas congressional delegation with the intent to encourage support of federal funds being delegated to the completion. Following its adoption, Maddox said, “This resolution informs the federal government that the State of Arkansas deems the completion of I-49 from Fort Smith to Texarkana as vital for the economic viability and long term growth of all of the communities on the I-49 corridor.”
Gard Wayt, Executive Director of the I-49 International Coalition, commended the efforts of Maddox and everyone in the Arkansas House who supported this important piece of legislation, “We commend Representative John Maddox for his vision and leadership in bringing this issue to his colleagues in the legislature. We also commend him and his colleagues for recognizing the great economic benefit the completion of this North-South Interstate through Arkansas will bring not only to the entire state of Arkansas but to all of Mid-America from Winnipeg, Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana as the final pieces of a 1,700 mile trade and travel corridor open new opportunities for tourism, trade and travel through the heartland of America to and from everywhere in the world by way of the ports of the Gulf Coast and through the expanding Panama Canal.”
The adoption of this resolution just adds to the I-49 Coalition’s growing support. In June 2016, Regional Chambers of Commerce met and determined a common agreement to encourage forward actions on the project, with the focus being on the bridge over the Arkansas River at Fort Smith, and the initiation of acquiring right of ways to further the highway through Arkansas.
President Donald Trump has pledged $1 trillion in much needed infrastructure improvement over the next 10 years and Arkansas Business published a REPORT this week saying that a 13.7-mile section of Interstate 49 with a bridge across the Arkansas River in the Fort Smith area, with a price tag of $380 million, will be on Arkansas’ “wish list.” Scott Bennett, Director of Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department, is quoted in the Arkansas Business article as identifying this stretch of road as “shovel ready.” Bennett said the design is mostly finished and the state has the environmental clearances for the work. If money were available, Bennett believes construction could start this year.
Wayt is grateful for this strong show of support from Arkansas legislative leaders, “Passage of HR1018 brings the important additional influence and prestige of the Arkansas Legislature to support the 100+ members of the I-49 International Coalition in Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana who are working to bring attention to the need to finish this High Priority #1 Interstate from Kansas City to New Orleans. We will publicize the passage of the Resolution up and down the I-49 corridor among our members and supporters, and in all the states from Canada to the Gulf Coast who will benefit economically from the completion of I-49. It will be encouraging to all those involved to know they have the support of Arkansas’ political leaders.”
Slightly over 200 miles of interstate highway development remain to complete the 1,700 mile corridor from New Orleans to Winnipeg, Canada. The highway, providing a safer transportation network and directly affecting 12 states, is expected to expand economic development including jobs, business opportunities, and tourism development.
Gar Eisele, local business owner and board member of both ARCO (Arkansas Regional Coaliton of the Ouachitas) and the I-49 International Coalition was grateful to see Maddox spearheading a resolution that is crucial to his constituency:
“There’s nothing that can bring prosperity to this part of the state more than the completion of I-49. It’s time that all of these discussions actually turn in to results. Everyone acknowledges the need and the importance, but we need strong leaders like Maddox willing to push for the federal monies to complete this project and transform it from a vision to a reality for the people of west central Arkansas.”