AHTD SELECTS PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE FOR HIGHWAY 18 IMPROVEMENTS
LITTLE ROCK (5-2) The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) has selected a preferred alternative for Highway 18 improvements in northeast Arkansas, according to Dan Flowers, AHTD Director.
The AHTD has completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) for Highway 18 improvements between the St. Francis River, east of Lake City in Craighead County, and Highway 181, west of Dell in Mississippi County. Location Public Hearings for the project were held on January 8, 2007, in Monette, and January 9, 2007, in Manila. After careful consideration of information contained in the EA and the comments received at the Location Public Hearings, the AHTD, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), has identified the Preferred Alternative for the proposed project. A map showing the Preferred Alternative is attached.
The Preferred Alternative includes:
· Widening existing Highway 18 from the St. Francis River to west of Monette;
· A new location north of existing Highway 18 in the vicinity of Monette;
· Widening existing Highway 18 from just east of Monette to west of Manila;
· In the vicinity of Manila, widening existing Highway 18 to its intersection with Highway 77 South and continuing approximately one mile south on Highway 77, and then east on new location along County Road 346 to its intersection with existing Highway 18;
· Widening existing Highway 18 from County Road 346 to Highway 181 west of Dell.
In general, the improvements to the existing location of Highway 18 will include widening to five lanes with shoulders in rural areas and curb-and-gutter in urban areas. New location sections will consist of four lanes with a median.
Widening the section of existing Highway 18 east of Manila will require acquisition of right of way from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This decision was made in consultation with other agencies including the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, and with consideration of public comments collected throughout the environmental review process. Coordination with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be initiated during the design phase of the project to determine appropriate mitigation for the proposed right of way acquisition.
The next steps will be conducting surveys, archeological investigation and reporting, and preliminary design. Once the preliminary design is complete and the right of way limits are established, Design Public Hearings will be held. After comments from these Design Public Hearings have been addressed, the AHTD will request approval from the FHWA in order to proceed with implementation. Construction of the improvements can be scheduled once FHWA approval is obtained and funds become available.