State highway officials look at two options for Fayetteville's MLK, I-49 interchange improvement

FAYETTEVILLE -- State highway officials unveiled two options Tuesday for improving traffic flow at the Interstate 49 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard interchange during a public input session.

One version would feature a bridge on-ramp from the inside eastbound lanes of MLK onto northbound I-49. The other option would have a loop on-ramp from the right eastbound lanes onto the interstate.

Either configuration would be two lanes and both are designed to eliminate the left hand turn required to go north on the interstate.

Danny Straessle, Arkansas Department of Transportation spokesman, said planning on the project is about 30 percent complete and officials will look at the impact and cost before announcing a preferred option. Construction is at least two years away, Straessle said.

More public input sessions are expected as the plans are further refined.

Construction cost and right-of-way acquisition cost estimates haven't been compiled, Straessle said.

The loop option would likely be significantly more expensive than the bridge because several commercial properties on the east side of I-49 both north and south of MLK would have to be taken out to make room.

The bridge could be built within ArDOT right-of-way.

The area is congested during the morning and evening commutes because of continued development in west Fayetteville, Farmington, Prairie Grove and Lincoln, making the interchange a choke point for drivers wanting to go north on I-49.

Traffic studies done in 2012 found I-49 at the interchange carried 54,700 cars a day and MLK carried 38,000. By 2040, I-49 is projected to have some 84,000 cars a day and MLK 62,000.

Money for the project is expected to come from the Connecting Arkansas Program. Voters approved a sales tax to pay for interstate improvements in 2012.

About 40 people attended Tuesday's session.

NW News on 09/13/2017

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