What: Interstate 555 Dedication
Where: 505 East Washington, St. Bernards Auditorium, Jonesboro, AR
When: Friday, March 11, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) has worked in the past with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to designate U.S. 63 as I-555. For U.S. 63 to be designated as an interstate, agricultural vehicles like cotton modules, dump trucks, and logging trucks would not be allowed to use certain bridges that they have used for years. Once the highway gains interstate status, the federal bridge formula for interstates would apply, and many agricultural vehicles are non-compliant with those rules. For example, agricultural vehicles that currently drive a few short minutes across the St. Francis Floodway bridge by Marked Tree would be forced to take a 90 mile detour around the sunken lands.
A separate access road spanning the floodway has been the leading solution for several years, although the cost of building a separate road for agricultural vehicles was estimated to be $30 million to $50 million — for road only 3 miles long.
Instead, Representative Crawford, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, last year proposed an exemption for agricultural vehicles along the 3 mile stretch, which would save tens of millions of dollars while at the same time allowing the interstate designation to move forward. Crawford’s amendment was included in last year’s highway bill, which has allowed the designation to move forward, a solution 40 years in the making.
More information is available here, here, and here.