WALDENBURG, AR (KAIT) - Officials in Waldenburg and Weiner told Region 8 News Tuesday the decrease in traffic will severely impact their communities. Mayor William Wood in Waldenburg said he estimates 15,000 vehicles pass through the 4-way stop at the intersection of Highway 14 and 49 each day. The decrease in traffic in September will lower sales tax revenues, according to Wood. The Arkansas Highway Department plans to open the Highway 67-226 Interchange, which takes commutes near Cash, in September.
"When it happens, we'll know that it's going to affect our traffic flow. For the last several years, the traffic flow through Waldenburg has put us on the map. Our sales tax is great. People come through. They stop at our convenience stores and buy stuff, and it's benefitted our town greatly," said Wood.
Wood said the city receives $7,000/month in sales tax revenues. He said a large portion of that money comes from the sale of gasoline and food.
"Two big convenience stores in town that they depend on that traffic," said Wood. "We're going to take a hit. Of course, we saw the handwriting on the wall. I know it's going to benefit somebody else on up the road from us, but we're just going to have to live with it."
Wood said the city of Waldenburg had nothing when he became mayor. Since that time, he said he's been able to pave city roads and renovate city hall with tax revenues. Wood, who owns Woody's Barbecue, said his business will be impacted.
"We're going to take a hit. What we're trying to do right now is we're trying to take that sales tax money and double up on payments on our water tank, because we know it's going to hurt," said Wood.
According to Wood, Waldenburg has more than $96,000 in CDs saved through the years. He's hoping not to touch that money in the next year.
Wood said the primary businesses feeling the pressure are gas stations and eateries.
"It may not affect them because people are going to come to them and they don't depend on the traffic flow, but the convenience stores and my business, it's going to hurt," said Wood.
Tyler Sitzer is a city council member in Weiner and assistant fire chief for the Weiner Fire Department. He works at L&L Repair in Waldenburg with Mayor Arthur Booth. He said business in Weiner will be affected as well.
"Once they get 226 widened to a proper width, it'll at least cut down the traffic here by half. It should," said Sitzer. "Traffic, car after car after big truck, big truck, and lot of semis use this road. And until they widen 226, most of the trucks will continue to use 14, but once they get widened, it'll probably take the truck traffic also."
"The majority are coming through 49 to Waldenburg then 14 over to 67 right now. There's some going to 18 and across but most are coming this direction," said Sitzer.
Sitzer said he'd like to see the city of Weiner expand, but that's a task made more difficult with decreased traffic.
"We're going to be dependent on locals, even more than we were in the past," said Sitzer.
Sitzer said everything isn't bad. He said some businesses will be able to change with the situation.
"The only thing for through traffic will be like a tractor sitting outside for sale, but the 2 gas stations and the dairy bar and the restaurant or two, it'll affect them some. Like Josie's, but of course, people are going to travel 100 miles for Josie's," said Sitzer.