Lawmakers seek answers in I-55 standstill

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-Traffic on Interstate 55 finally improved Wednesday after thousands of drivers were stranded on the highway for nearly 24 hours after the winter storm hit.

But now that roads have improved, government officials are asking the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department for an explanation.

"Even up until yesterday at noon traffic was still a mess," said Senator Keith Ingram of West Memphis.

Traffic was backed up for miles on Interstate 55 Monday because of the ice on the road. Sen. Ingram said something has to be done now to prevent this from happening again.

"Find out the problems that have occurred, why they were so lengthy, what we learned from this and how we responded and how we're going to keep from having this occurrence again in the future," he said.

Sen. Ingram along with Senator Johnny Key of Mountain Home wrote a letter requesting both the Senate and House transportation committees hold a meeting with the highway department.

"We find out what flaws might have been and the response plan that we have and see how we are going to deal with it in the future."

"The 40/55 interchange that we have in West Memphis is the second most highly traveled road in this part of the country on the best day, much less when we have a major ice storm," Ingram said.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said he feels the road department did not respond fast enough. In a statement earlier this week, Governor Beebe said:

"It's awful; the mess they've got in over there. We've been trying to figure out why the               highway department wasn't there quicker with treating those roads. They tell us that                 what happened to them, and I have to rely on what they say, that they did pre-treat                 them, but all of the rain washed it off and then was suddenly hit with the ice."

Next time, Ingram said he hopes the highway department can respond faster and avoid the mess.

"In the future we would have learned some lessons from what went on regarding how the response was to this storm that we don't have people sitting on the interstate at 24. 30 hours at a stretch," he said.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Ingram said he also invited Arkansas State Police to attend and share their concerns.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.