WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill that would put Arkansas on path to add another highway to our nation’s interstate system.
The Senate Appropriations Committee reported the bill on Thursday containing Boozman’s language designating Highway 67 from North Little Rock to Walnut Ridge as “Future I-57.” The bill would also give Arkansas the ability to request that any segment of the road that is built to interstate standards be officially added to the federal interstate system as “I-57.”
“Arkansas has worked for decades to build this road. The time has come to start calling it what it is — an interstate-quality highway that connects Arkansas farms, factories and travelers, to the rest of our country,” Boozman said. “New interstates take many years and support from the federal, state and local level to complete. As we work over the coming years to build future interstates in Arkansas, such as I-49, I-69 and a completed I-57, we will make Arkansas a better-connected state that is open for business."
After years of work and investment, Arkansas has built an interstate-quality road from Little Rock to northeast Arkansas. This road is naturally oriented to eventually connect with the existing I-57 in southeast Missouri. Currently I-57 extends from Chicago, Illinois to Sikeston, Missouri. The designation of Highway 67 from North Little Rock to Walnut Ridge as “Future I-57” establishes in federal law that the region is on-track to officially add a direct interstate connection from the Little Rock region to Chicago as “Interstate 57.” While completing the interstate will take a number of years, this is a very important step in that direction.
The presence of an official interstate highway is one of the key factors that developers consider when determining where to make major investments, such as building new factories.
“The designation of U.S. 67 as a future interstate is an incredible milestone for all communities along and in proximity to this corridor,” Buck Layne, Executive Director for the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce said. “We have spent decades working toward the goal of completing this vital interstate connector to improve the transportation network and expand economic development opportunities for the state and region. While much work remains ahead, we are tremendously grateful to Senator Boozman for securing this language in the Senate version of the annual Transportation funding bill.”
Jon Chadwell, Executive Director for the Newport Economic Development Commission said, “The effort to have U.S. Highway 67 designated as the future I-57 corridor will bring new economic opportunity to both northeastern Arkansas and the state as a whole. The addition of an interstate corridor from Chicago to Little Rock will increase Arkansas’s position as the crossroads of America and give companies an even greater access to national and global markets, allowing communities along the corridor to compete more effectively for new industries and grow their existing industries.”
Resolutions of support for the I-57 Designation have been passed by the Newport Economic Development Commission as well as Chambers of Commerce in Bald Knob, Cabot, Jacksonville, Lawrence County, Newport, Sherwood and Searcy. Other expressions of support have been received from communities throughout the central Arkansas and northeast Arkansas regions.