PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Construction on the Highway 412 bypass started in 2012 and now, quite a bit of progress is being made on the bridge and overpass section.
A bridge had to be built over 8 Mile Creek and an overpass is going up over the railroad tracks. The roughly 5.5 mile stretch of roadway is expected to be complete by the end of 2014, with hopes of diverting semi-truck traffic off U.S. Highways 412 and 49.
However, speeding up traffic runs the possibility of slowing down business throughout Paragould as well.
"As you come through Paragould at certain times of the day when everyone is trying to get somewhere, there's no alternative paths around Paragould," Mayor Mike Gaskill told Region 8 News.
The bypass project is something Gaskill said has been discussed as far back as 1998 by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, deeming the bypass something that needed to be done once funding was available.
"Over the years, Paragould has grown, from the time we got those minute orders, we were at 21-22,000 people. Now, we're at 26,000," Gaskill said, which makes the need for the bypass greater now.
Gaskill said though the pro is easing traffic in the heart of Paragould, there could be cons.
"There's always a concern from local businesses that 'Well, if we have people bypassing our community, they won't stop here and spend any money,' where as right now, they have to come here through our community and may make some of those stops," Gaskill explained.
However, Assistant Manager at Wings To Go, Christopher Lawrence told Region 8 News he's not particularly concerned with the traffic diversion.
"The traffic through here, as you see, it's just big semis, and they don't ever stop to eat anyways," Lawrence said
Lawrence explained in the year he's worked at the Wings To Go on Highway 49, they've only had one semi-truck driver stop for food.
He said the people that stop to eat are usually from Paragould or the nearby towns, not those just passing through.
"Even the nearer schools like Brookland, they come, y'know, they come here to eat and stuff, the Brookland softball team, we get a lot of high school basketball teams, junior high teams from Paragould," Lawrence said.
Gaskill said if the weather cooperates, construction on the bypass should be completed at the end of this year and people should be able to drive on it at the end of 2014. He said if everything goes as planned, construction on the west side of the bypass will start in 2015.