I-69 scheduled to come near Monticello

Will Collins
Staff Writer

   While planners choose which route to bring Interstate 69 through Monticello, the University of Arkansas at Monticello prepares for more students.

   "Interstate 69 is the greatest source of economical development for this region,” UAM Chancellor Jack Lassiter said. “In the future you will see a great change in southeast Arkansas. The campus will have easier access and students will be able to travel to the school easier from a greater distance."

   The Federal Highway Administration, in cooperation with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, is conducting a comprehensive environmental and engineering study and will prepare the necessary environmental documentation for this section of the proposed I-69 Corridor from El Dorado to McGehee, Ark. The project calls for a four-lane divided, fully controlled access road that will straighten curvy roads.

   Three proposed routes will bring I-69 near Monticello. The first northern route would bring the interstate closest to town, while a second northern route would be closer to Star City and a southern route would come closer to Hamburg. Lassiter favors the southern route so students will not encounter added traffic on Highway 425. However, he said he feels great benefits will come to the campus as well as the city from the traffic increase.

   "More traffic means that more food places will appear as you can already see and an increase in jobs for the area and for our students," Lassiter said.

   The proposed I-69 Corridor will link Indianapolis, Ind., to the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The corridor also includes completed portions of I-69 from Indianapolis north to the Port Huron, Mich., border crossing with Canada as well as the existing Interstate 94 from Port Huron through Detroit to Chicago, Ill.

   This study focuses on the section of I-69 connecting the Mississippi River crossing to the El Dorado, Ark., area, which should enhance the transportation services and economic vitality of the project area. This section will accommodate the overall purpose of the national I-69 Corridor, a much larger transcontinental project identified as a "high priority corridor" on the National Highway System that would provide a North American Free Trade Agreement transportation corridor of national significance from Canada to Mexico.

Photo by Will Collins
A little at a time The roadway slowly takes shape for the connector between Monticello and Wilmar.
   I-69 is also a transportation recommendation of the Delta Initiative aimed at the revitalization and economic development of the Lower Mississippi Delta. At a Jan. 9, 2002 meeting, the Arkansas Highway Commission authorized the AHTD staff to enter into agreements with three engineering firms to design the Interstate 530 connector from Pine Bluff south. The connector will link existing I-530 in Pine Bluff with proposed Interstate 69 near Monticello. Until I-69 is built, the connector will intersect U. S. Highway 278 between Monticello and Wilmar.

   “I-530 between Little Rock and Pine Bluff was southeast Arkansas’ first Interstate highway,” Lipton said Commission Chairman John M Lipton of Warren in a 2002 AHTD news release. “And with the planning of proposed I-69 well underway, it makes sense to connect these two routes. So while the planning for I-69 proceeds at the national level, we in Arkansas are moving forward with this connector which will greatly benefit southeast Arkansas even before I-69 gets completed.”

    Lipton said the 38-mile connector will be designed and built in five useable segments, each of which can be used without waiting for the completion of the entire route. Section 1 extends from Highway 278 northward to Highway 35 northwest of Monticello. Section 2 continues north from Highway 35 to a point south of Star City where a short connector will tie the new highway to Highway 11 and Highway 425. Section 3 extends north from that point to Highway 114 west of Star City.
Section 4 continues north to just east of Pinebergen where another short connector will link the new road to Highway 63. Section 5 will complete the route from that point to intersect with I-530 just east of the Highway 63 interchange.

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The Voice, 2004
Revised 041029 — http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/2_5/I69.htm