Ahh, Texarkana. They say it is “twice as nice” but it is not “twice as many interstates nice” because I-49 is not here yet. Regardless of your maps, the freeway stretching south of Texarkana is signed only as AR 549. No “Future I-49” signs here, no sir. Here it is, plus some AR 245 goodness.
What the signs don’t tell you is that the northbound choice puts you on an expressway while south puts you on a (northbound!) freeway.
These photos are from a few months ago, but no construction was evident at the southern end whatsoever. This southernmost stretch of the freeway opened in late 2005.
The 29 mile stretch of freeway is fairly dull. It’s by no means boring but the sprawl of gas stations and Cracker Barrels has not made it out here yet. That and the brand newness of the road, and complete absence of traffic makes it seem a little bit off in some way. I suppose it is “what a rural American freeway ought to be” rather than “what a rural American freeway is”.
I’m not sure if this is the future route of I-49 or not, or if it’s going to go around to the east. There are absolutely no Future I-49 signs anywhere in Texarkana. At least, not on any of the major roads or freeways.
US 59 is a freeway on the west side of Texarkana and is the oldest freeway in town besides IH 30. In 2001 and 2003, this freeway had signs up proclaiming it at future I-69 – those signs are all gone these days. Texarkana is well poised on the future interstate highway system with I-49, I-69, and I-130 all possible designations for the area’s freeways. Still, there is just the one, IH 30.
Arkansas has been routinely voted as having the worst interstates in the nation, or is usually in the lower 5. In the mid 90s Arkansas recognized the need to fix their interstate highways, which need about $1 billion in work. A bond issue was sent to voters and soundly defeated. In 1999 the state government came up with a solution of new bonds backed with state highway money, and gas tax increases phased in over several years – and the voters approved it. The state can rehabilitate over 100 miles of interstates a year, and will have most of them fixed by 2008. Texas would have just slapped tollbooths on them. Anyway, I brought this up because often at the Arkansas state line on an interstate the orange cones begin.
The other road thing of interest in the area is State Line Avenue. US 71 is carried on old slab concrete and asphalt right down the state line.