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Federal funding needed for highway projects - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Federal funding needed for highway projects

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TEXARKANA, Ark. -

With each segment Interstate 49 completed, road planners say the interstate is one step closer to reaching it's full potential for economic development.
    
However, construction for some parts of project are completely unfunded and it's not just I-49 that's missing out.

"We are so fortunate to be on these routes, we've just to figure out a way to take advantage of it all," said Curt Green, I-49 International Coalition President.

Green says state legislative support is key to making the I-49 project move forward.

He recently spoke at the Arkansas Senate and House joint transportation meeting in Texarkana.

Green says a lack of federal funding is hurting the U.S. transportation system.   

"Right now, everyone is on hold, the states are worried they're not going to get enough to even keep up with their maintenance programs," explained Green.

Arkansas Highway and Transportation Director Scott Bennett says about 70 percent of their revenue is federal dollars, which is now depleted.
 
"If something is not done to fix that federal highway trust fund and add more money to it, then we're probably going to have to skip a year of a federal highway program in 2015," said Bennett.

He says all projects will have to be postponed if Congress doesn't approve additional funding by the September 30th deadline.

"You're talking about $450 or $500 million worth of work that will not be done in Arkansas in 2015," said Bennett.

Once completed, Interstate 49 will be 1,700 miles of interstate highway between New Orleans and Winnipeg, Canada.

It's now 80% complete.

The longest unfinished section is 145 miles between Fort Smith and Texarkana in Arkansas.

Bennett says I-49, which winds in part through the Ouachita Mountains, has been named a federal high-priority corridor.

"We think that Congress should invest in corridors like this, that are very important to not just one state, but to the region and the nation," explained Bennett.

State Senator Larry Teague is from Nashville, Arkansas.

His district represents I-49 from Lockesburg to the north end of the Polk County line.

Teague says he'd like to see I-49 construction started even if it was in small segments.   

"You would immediately bring people to work on I-49, you've got people looking at exits to put convenient stores on, you just get alot of excitement going," said Teague.

Highway officials say about 5% of I-49 is under construction and about 20% is still in need of funding.

Louisiana transportation officials say the interchange at I-220 will be going to bid in December of this year with an estimated completion time of three years.
    
The inner-city connector through Shreveport will take longer to complete, if at all.

That urban route which  includes wetlands would cost hundreds of millions dollars.

Until then, I-49 traffic will continue to take its circular route inside Shreveport using I-220 as a connector.

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