In the next 20 years, traffic going through Texarkana will increase exponentially due to interstate improvements and planning for that needs to begin now, Curt Green with the I-49 Coalition said Thursday during the meeting of the Red River Valley Association.
He told those gathered at the Texarkana, Ark., Convention Center that once improvements are made to U.S. Hwy. 59 to make it I-69 and when I-49 is completed, that through traffic will double, and possibly triple, in Texarkana.
"We've got 30 coming from the west, we've got 69 coming from the southwest and 49 coming from the south," he said. "You think it's busy now? If we don't get what I call a pop-off valve for I-49 going north and six or eight lanes to handle that, Texarkana's going to be in trouble. If we don't get a pop-off valve off I-30 and I-49 through northwest Arkansas, we are going to be in deep trouble."
Currently, the traffic count on I-30 through Texarkana is 82,000 to 86,000 cars per day. By 2040, that is projected to increase by 50 percent.
"Quite honestly, it'll be before then," Green said.
Interstate 49 is mostly complete from Texarkana to south Louisiana, with a portion going through downtown Shreveport, La. still incomplete. I-49 traffic there is currently diverted around the city and the direct route is due to be complete in the next few years, Green said. The main concern is finding funding to complete the portion from Texarkana to Fort Smith, Ark., he said. The interstate route is planned to mostly follow Hwy. 71, but that land has not been purchased and currently, there is no state or federal funding to complete that portion.
"That's what we call the missing link," he said. "Missouri will finish their last spot above Bella Vista next year. They got a $45 million grant for that. We just got Shreveport to Texarkana, so it's share and share alike. Every time we complete a key extension, it increased the likelihood of getting funding for the next piece."
Once complete, the route would go from south Louisiana directly to Winnipeg, Canada. Currently, the quickest route to Kansas City takes traffic through the heart of Texas instead of through Texarkana, Green said.
"Right now they're going through Dallas and Oklahoma instead of coming right through the middle of us," he said. "We're giving everybody else all this traffic, additional fuel sales and everything else because we haven't got I-49 finished."
For I-69, several meetings have been held in the area for residents to get more information on the coming changes. Development of the U.S. Hwy. 59 route will allow more freight to be transferred from ports along the Gulf of Mexico to the north. The route is set to end in Texarkana, where trucks would then have the option to go east or west along I-30, or north on I-49 once it is complete.
The Texas Freight Mobility Plan specifically identifies completing I-69 of great importance in becoming a freight conduit. In 2014, more than 2.6 billion tons of freight was moved in Texas and by 2040, almost 4 billion tons is forecast.
The highway provides multi-modal connectivity, gives access to 14 international border crossings, eight deep-draft seaports, 10 commercial airports, freight rail and is needed to address current demand and future freight growth.
For more information on the I-49 International Coalition, go to www.interstate49.org.