The Present and Future of I-555

October 31, 2006--Posted at 6:45 p.m. CST

Region 8--Northeast Arkansas has anxiously waited for years to have its own major four lane highway that could compare to Central Arkansas' Highway 67 and now the wait should soon be over.

"Equal to 67 in probably the latter part of 2007," said Arkansas Highway Commissioner John Ed Regenold.

While the finishing touches are being put on several interchanges around Marked Tree and Tyronza residents wonder when future I-555 will drop the future reference.

"Quite a while," said Regenold.

As it currently stands combines and other farm equipment are allowed on future I-555. However, if the road was to receive interstate designation, by law that equipment would then be kept out. And for farmers who are forced to use this major thoroughfare they would be forced to find an alternate route.

"That puts us in pretty tough shape, because a lot of people will be going 90 miles around to be able to get around the floodway. That's not right. We have to take care of the farmers, therefore we are not going to make I-555 until we can get across that floodway," said Regenold.

The only way to accommodate these farmers would be to build a frontage road across the flood way outside of Payneway. And that wouldn't be a cheap proposition.

"About 20 million dollars on today's numbers and right now that money isn't available. I don't know when it would be available to be honest with you," said Regenold.

Regenold isn't for raising taxes, but he believes it is time for the state to begin dedicating more money to road construction, because roadways are a form of economic development.

Another potential option for the highway department would be to ask the federal government to waive the regulation prohibiting farming equipment vehicles for several years. However, Regenold doesn't feel that is a good idea because there is no guarantee when the state will have the money to build the frontage road along the floodway.