A new highway whispers growth for Newport

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT)-Jackson County is growing in leaps and bounds!

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held October 4th in celebration of the official opening of the new route for Arkansas State Highway 17.

Many state, county and city representatives came out for the event.

This project opens up approximately two thousand acres of development along the interstate and connects to existing highways that come into the city limits of Newport.

Mayor of Newport, David Stewart, says they hope this will mean big things for both Newport and Jackson County.

"This opens up property that is flat and straight and is ideal for our economic development as far as retail merchants. We hope to be able to not only service the school, but service this area with retail businesses in the future."

It has taken a little over three years to complete this little over three million dollar project.

The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department exchanged four miles of the existing Arkansas State Highway 17 route that runs through Newport with two point one new miles of road off of Commerce Boulevard.

Larry Williams, Moving Jackson County Forward member and chair of the Newport Economic Development Commission, says this project first started as an idea and with the collaborative effort from many people and organizations is now complete.

"The project started with contributions from Moving Jackson County Forward. They provided the resources for the initial engineering with the landowners for the donation of the property and then facilitated with working both the city, the county and the Newport Development Commission to come up with the additional resources to make this project a reality."

Governor Mike Beebe says he's proud of the work so many different people have worked together to accomplish, "This is a project that was a long time in the making, but a great cooperative effort between the city, county and local leadership as well as the highway department. Brand new school. This opens up the transportation lane to the brand new school. It also offers some economic development opportunities for this region. Can potentially open up some additional property for commercial or other economic development use and so, it's another example of partners working together and being able to bring progress and infrastructure growth to Newport and Jackson County and Northeast Arkansas."

Mayor Stewart says after all this time and work, it's a thrill to see the project finally complete.

"It feels real good to get this complete. We've been working on it in the planning stages and the actual construction for several years and we're just all enthused about it and it just feels really good to finally let it be open, today."

©2010 KAIT All rights reserved.