NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Back to school is nearly a month away and Newport's new elementary school is ready, but the road leading to school is just beginning to lay gravel and may not be ready when the first school bell rings.
The highway has been under construction for months now. The city of Newport, Jackson County, the State Highway Department, and a private contractor are all involved with this project. With so many parties, it seems many are questioning how long it will take for the highway to be completed.
"Seems it has took longer like that. Usually one contractor will come in and do the whole thing but this has not worked that way," says job superintendent Michael Lassiter with the Highway Department.
Just off highway 67 in Newport, gravel is flying as crews work hard on the new highway to Newport Elementary. "Right now we're putting the base course of gravel on it and we'll do it in two lifts," says Lassiter, which means more time. "It'll take twice as long to go through the first time with four inches and come back with 4 inches again running somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 tons a day of gravel," he says.
With school starting soon many are concerned if the highway will be completed. "Right now we're shooting the best somewhere around the 1st week of September, cause last week we got a week behind because we got 6 inches of rain," Lassiter explain, bringing more work. "They had to redo some dirt work on the north end of the job now because it was washed away."
Lassiter has been working for the Highway Department for 32 years and says this project has been a challenge. "We quit basically setting up roads back in the early 80s and about all went to contractors so it's something we're not really familiar with. A lot of the guys on the crew have not set up gravel before," says Lassiter. But he says they're working as hard as they can to get the job done. "Trying to get on as quick as we can to get our part done. When we get the gravel done the asphalt crew will come in and lay so they're waiting on us to get the gravel ready."
School Superintendent Larry Bennett says he's already made arrangements in regards to school transportation, and says while they're anxious for the highway to be completed, school will start as scheduled on august 19th.