Potentially positive economic prospects coming to Texarkana by way of two new interstates, a relatively new business park and a revived regional airport sparked U.S. Sen. John Boozman's interest Monday.
The Arkansas GOP senatorial candidate, who is seeking a second term in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election, stopped by the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce to listen to area business leaders and municipal and county officials speak about the chance for strong, positive regional economic development once Interstate 49 and Interstate 69 intersect with Interstate 30.
Boozman collected information on the effect the north-south route route would have on Texarkana if its 1,200-mile stretch between New Orleans in the south and Winnipeg, Canada, in the north could be finished in the next few years.
The only remaining unfinished link of I-49 is a 150-mile stretch between Fort Smith, Ark., and Texarkana. Apart from intersecting with I-30 to the north, I-49 intersects five other interstates running east and west across the U.S. These include interstates 10 and 20 in Louisiana along with interstates 40, 44 and 70 running further north.
Collectively, I-49 touches 12 states. Besides Texas and Arkansas, the highway now touches Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
Beside having the prospect of a relatively unique three-way interstate intersection in this area, Boozman also received updates on continued business growth at the 12,000-acre TexAmericas Center.
As for I-69, local proponents showed Boozman how the highway, which is still under construction, would connect Bowie County residents quicker to I-20 as well as to both Houston and Corpus Christi and to the Rio Grande Valley further south-in addition to connecting Northeast Texas residents in general to the Gulf Coast and deep South Texas.
Chamber officials also pointed out that the 174-mile stretch of I-30 between Dallas and Texarkana alone carries between 82,000 and 86,000 cars per day. This count is expected to increase by 50 percent over the next 24 years.
Following the hour-long meeting, Boozman said the chance for the Texarkana area to become more of an economic power house looks impressive.
"I think that we have a great opportunity here and it's also something we can improve on and we can also get more jobs landed here," he said.
Boozman said that getting the 150-mile gap in I-49 remains both a state and federal project. He also said that getting both I-69 and I-49 connected also would bring a seriously beneficial joint transportation route of goods and services into an area that would benefit the entire country.
"I find that people in the entire Texarkana regional area very supportive with ideas on how to bring all of these economic and transportation components together, but we will also have to wait and see how the nation's overall economy improves, grows and progresses," he said.
Boozman added that plans to build a newer and larger passenger terminal at the Texarkana Regional Airport could help potentially bring more industry to the community.
"My sense is that the quality of the labor force that this area currently has is also very good and we will support the long-term business planning that the residents here come up with," Boozman said. "I'm very impressed with the spirit of community involvement I see each time I visit here."