Officials Discuss Interstate 555 - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Tyronza -- Heather Flanigan Reports

Officials Discuss Interstate 555

April 15, 2004 -- Posted at 5:02 p.m. CDT

TYRONZA -- The Interstate 555 project is seen by most as progress, but not everyone shares that opinion. Travel time between Jonesboro and Memphis was cut considerably when Highway 63 South became four lanes from Jonesboro to Payneway.

The roadway is set for improvements once again with the proposed Interstate 555 project, but not everyone is enthusiastic about the project.

Some Tyronza Residents say the plan is flawed because it fails to connect frontage roads used by farmers....creating a logistics and traffic nightmare. And it was a packed house Thursday morning when Tyronza Mayor Marion Bearden met with officials to discuss the impact of Interstate 555 on her community.

"It's causing a problem with our farmers. Nowadays farmers don't farm five acres or 100 acres. They farm thousands of acres and this is dividing a lot of the farmers," said Bearden.

The proposed Interstate is causing quiet a headache for area farmers, because the city would not have connected frontage roads, making for some a big inconvenience.

"Of what we've been told, our proposed access from Payneway to Marked Tree is that we're going to have to go 20 to 30 miles out of the way," said a farmer during the open forum meeting.

"If they would connect two miles of frontage road, that's already proposed, just two miles sections that would connect Lake David to Tyronza. This would serve the purpose for our farmers. It would give them a way to cross the highway and get to their farm ground that they're needing," said Mayor Bearden to a crowded room.

But the Arkansas Highway Transportation Department says it's all about cost.

"Funding is always an issue. So we'll have to take the needs on the quarter and the money and do the best that we can," said Dan Flowers, Director of Arkansas Highway Transportation Department.

The residents of Tyronza are worried about the maintenance and safety of the roads here in town. If no frontage roads are built, farm equipment would have to come through these streets, just feet from the town's school.

"These streets were built in 1926 to accommodate two row little pieces of equipment, now days your talking about 12 row equipment. The safety factor it's just not feasible to try to have equipment traveling through town," said Bearden.

Senator Blanche Lincoln was also on hand Thursday, weighing in on the situation.

"If it's worth doing, it worth doing right for everybody, and so that's what we're going to try to do, is look at the ways we can. But there's no doubt that we've got to convince Washington," said Senator Lincoln.

And that means getting President Bush to sign a $215 billion dollar Transportation Bill. The Interstate 555 project is expected to top $100 million dollars to complete.

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