Public Hearings To Discuss Plans For Highway 18

JONESBORO, AR -- East Craighead County residents were given the opportunity to let their voices be heard on Monday  in the first of two hearings concerning plans for Highway 18.

Part of those plans include improvements to Highway 18 north of Monette and southeast of Manila.

The result means essentially bypassing Monette.

"There's 5400 hundred cars a day that come through here," said Monette Mayor, Chub Qualls.

A number expected to dip drastically if Highway 18 bypasses the city of Monette in East Craighead County.

In an informal Q & A session on Monday, state highway officials were on hand taking comments from residents on the proposal to widen Highway 18 to five lanes from Lake City to just west of Blytheville.

"Most of the comments I have heard so far have been interested in the particular pieces of property," said Joe Barnett with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.

Monette Mayor Chub Qualls gives an optimistic outlook on what widening Highway 18 may do for the city of Monette.

He says perhaps offering more convenience to residents.

"We're a hub to Paragould, Jonesboro, and Blytheville and all of those highways linking through 18.  It could be a help to us," said Qualls.

Not everyone thinks being bypassed is a blessing.

Some Monette business owners fear losing the traffic through downtown may mean you lose customers....

"We're halfway between Blytheville and Jonesboro, and right now there's a lot of traffic that they depend on.  Anytime you take that away from them, it's going to be difficult for some of the businesses to survive," said business owner, Michael McFarlin.

He says some businesses will be hit harder than others.

The ones perhaps hit the hardest like grocery stores and gas stations are the ones the town needs the most.

"..... to keep from having to go Jonesboro or a bigger town," said McFarlin.

"Without traffic from people just passing through--the attempt to stay open McFarlin says could be an uphill fight.

The second public hearing will be Tuesday, from four to seven, at the Manila Municipal Airport.