TEXARKANA, Texas — The status of completing Interstate 49 was among transportation topics discussed during a meeting of experts and elected officials Friday.
TEX-21, a Texas group that advocates for transportation improvements, held its quarterly meeting at Williams Memorial United Methodist Church. Officials from three Northeast Texas counties and transportation engineers from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas shared information about needs and anticipated projects, with a focus on cooperation between states.
Steve Frisbee, district engineer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said approximately $4.2 billion would be needed to complete the section of Interstate 49 between Texarkana, Arkansas, and Fort Smith, Arkansas, but no funding is now available. If Issue 1, a continuation of a state transportation sales tax, meets voters' approval in November, about $540 million will become available for the project, he said. Overall, Issue 1 would generate about $250 million a year for the state and $88 million a year for counties and cities.
First proposed in 1965, Interstate 49 when completed will connect New Orleans and Winnipeg, Canada. Sections have been completed from Kansas City to Winnipeg, from Lafayette, Louisiana, to Shreveport, Louisiana, and from Shreveport to Texarkana.
Bowie County Commissioner Tom Whitten listed a number of forthcoming Texas Department of Transportation projects in the county, including the widening of 6 miles of Interstate 30 west of Texarkana at an estimated cost of $74 million. Along with building 2.5 miles of frontage road at a cost of $28 million, construction on the project is expected to begin next year.
Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsome and Titus County Judge Brian Lee both spoke about the importance of short-line railroads to industry. Such railroads connect businesses such as manufacturing plants to the larger railroad network. Short-line railroads such as those run by the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District need maintenance funding to help attract manufacturing businesses to the area, they said.
Brian Taylor, center, chief engineer for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and Michael Lee, director of engineering and safety operations for the Texas Department of Transportation, took time to emphasize driver safety, especially wearing seat belts.
Nov. 7, 2000, was the last day there were no traffic fatalities in Texas, Lee said, prompting a TxDOT awareness campaign called #endthestreak.