Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01) today announced that he will take a new approach to facilitate the speedy completion of Interstate 555 from Jonesboro to Interstate 55. Congressman Crawford initiated a discussion with Alec Farmer, the newest member of the Arkansas Highway Commission, to identify the best way forward.
Presently, there is a three-mile stretch of road that spans the St. Francis Floodway that requires an access road. Without it, cotton modules, agriculture equipment, and some heavy vehicles like dump trucks would be forced to take a 90-mile detour. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has indicated that an access road could cost as much as $50 million. To solve this problem, Mr. Crawford plans to craft legislation that would exempt certain vehicles from some of the weight-limit restrictions that are imposed once a highway is designated as an interstate.
“If we are successful in securing this language in the upcoming highway reauthorization bill, we could save up to $50 million while not materially affecting the manner in which traffic crosses the floodway today,” said Congressman Crawford. “Director Scott Bennett and the professional staff at the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department have been very helpful in assisting us in finding a way to move forward with the I-555 designation while saving scarce taxpayer dollars. This would be a huge win-win for all of Northeast Arkansas and I am committed to making the best case possible for this with the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.”
Commissioner Farmer said, “I appreciate Congressman Crawford’s interest in ensuring highway dollars are spent wisely while also making certain that an important economic development tool – Interstate 555 – for Northeast Arkansas is realized as quickly as possible. I look forward to collaborating closely with Congressman Crawford as we work to address transportation needs in the First District.”
Congressman Crawford is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over the highway reauthorization bill. Either a full reauthorization of the highway bill, or an extension, will be passed by Congress by May 31, 2015. Congressman Crawford is working to have the exemption language included in the reauthorization bill as soon as is practical.