Highway officials discuss four-lane route
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department officials gathered public feedback about alternative corridors that may be used in the widening of Arkansas 18 from Lake City to Leachville, during a public meeting held at BIC West Elementary Tuesday evening.
"The project is currently in the preliminary stage," Joe Barnett, district 10 engineer for AHTD, said.
Two sections of the Highway 18 project are currently under four-lane conversion - from Jonesboro to Lake City and from Blytheville to the Highway 119 intersection at Leachville. These two projects are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Black Oak and Monette will remain in the 13 mile gap with two-lane highway usage.
During the meeting four general alternative corridors were explained. Alternative A calls for the widening of Highway 18 at the same location that it is now. Alternative A1 calls for the same widening with exception of bypassing Black Oak. Alternative B1 and B2 call for the widening of Arkansas 18 as it lies now, with the exception of bypassing Monette. B1 would bypass Monette to the north, with B2 bypassing to the south. Visitors present cast their vote as to which route they preferred.
Environmentalist Terry Tucker spoke with the public about archeological or historical sites that may exist within the project area, or if the widening of the highway would have special or unusual impacts or benefits to the surrounding community.
Parsons Transportation Group, of Memphis, has been contracted by the AHTD to do the feasibility study and develop alternate corridors for the project. The group engineers and AHTD officials spoke with area residents during the 4-7 p.m. question and answer session in Monette.
AHTD officials present included Elizabeth Mayfield Hart, transportation engineer; Terry Tucker, environmental scientist; Joe Burnette, district 10 engineer; and Edward Cain Jr., Michael Brugge and Elizabeth McClain with the Parsons Transportation Group.
After the planning group drafts their route recommendation, Tucker will work on the environmental aspect for the context sustainative design. The completed recommendation will then be sent to John Lipton, chairman of the Arkansas Highway Commission, for the group's final decision.
Funding for the 13 mile gap of Highway 18 has not been secured. With cost estimates of $2 million for every mile of four-lane highway completed, careful consideration is being given for project feasibility and cost.