The Core of SE Arkansas' Highway Construction

At least five highway projects under way in Arkansas are either in or stem from Pine Bluff. The state has invested more than $350 million into improving the roadways in and from Pine Bluff, the largest city in southeast Arkansas.

"In southeast Arkansas, Pine Bluff is the hub of activity," says Randy Ort, publicist for the Arkansas State Highway & Transportation Department.

In the past the highway department received some criticism from taxpayers who complained the state devoted so much time and money toward the Pine Bluff bypass that it neglected its commitment to completing a four-lane U.S. Highway 71 in northwest Arkansas.

The state's largest highway project, U.S. 71 from Alma to Fayetteville is a 43-mile stretch. From the time it was started in 1987 to the time it's complete in 1999, more than $350 million will have been spent on a relocated, four-lane U.S. 71.

"We build highways based on need," Ort says. "There is a need for major highway improvements in southeast Arkansas."

The transportation system is often a key reason why businesses locate in Arkansas, which has the 16th-largest highway system in the country.

Much of the highway construction in progress statewide is part of the Highway Improvement Program of 1991. It's a state- and federal-funded program allotting for more than $2.5 billion to be invested into improving about 6,000 miles of highways, 600 bridges and more.