Highway Department reschedules I-49 lane closures

Interstate 49 lane closures originally planned for the weekend of Oct. 17-19 are being rescheduled, according to Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) officials.

Crews have been working to widen about 2.6 miles of I-49 between Wagon Wheel Road in Springdale and Highway 264 in Lowell. Pavement work is now complete on the northbound side, but the inside lane will remain closed until work on the median barrier wall is finished.

Plans to reduce southbound traffic to one lane next weekend were changed due to expected high traffic in the area.

“The northbound improvements last weekend went very well and were finished ahead of schedule,” said AHTD Director Scott Bennett. “For the southbound work, we knew that this weekend football fans would be traveling to Northwest Arkansas for the Arkansas-Alabama game and we wanted to have all lanes open to handle the increase in traffic. So we scheduled the work for the 17th –19th. However, the War Eagle Craft Fair is that weekend. The festival brings in large crowds from a multi-state area and we didn’t want to affect the flow of traffic for that, so the work won’t take place that weekend, either.”

Bennett said with homecoming at the University of Arkansas the following weekend (Oct. 24) and the increased potential for cooler and wetter weather, options are becoming limited.

“Because the contractor will be laying asphalt, we have to consider the upcoming cold weather and the fact that November is a rainy month,” he said. “Our window of opportunity is growing short because asphalt can’t be laid in temperatures below 40 degrees. While we want to be a good neighbor and be mindful of the impact special events have on traffic, we also don’t want this project to extend into next year.”

Bennett said the department is evaluating reasonable options for completing the work.

“Allowing the contractor to concentrate all their resources into a single extended period of time, like we did for a weekend on the northbound lanes, is the most cost-effective way to complete the work,” Bennett said. “But that may not work for us now. We will announce a new schedule to finish the work soon.”