Posted 11/21/2011 12:00 am
Updated 10 months ago
Which comes first: infrastructure or economic growth? Ideally, communities stay ahead of their growth and supply adequate infrastructure, making daily life more convenient while lowering the cost of doing business.
One thing is sure, in Faulkner County’s growing economy the investment never stops.
Several high profile infrastructure projects — years in the making — will soon be in use or visibly under construction. The construction process itself is a shot in the arm economically. The finished product means a safer and better prepared community for current and future residents.
Interstate 40 Expansion
Conway is the secondary job market for the entire central Arkansas metro. Moving products and people efficiently within this regional economy has a profound impact on long-term success. No roadway affects commerce in central Arkansas more than Interstate 40.
Beginning in 2012, the section of interstate between Conway and Little Rock will receive its largest investment since its construction more than five decades ago. Interstate 40 will become a six-lane roadway from Highway 54 (exit 125) all the way to I-430. The additional capacity will make travel within the MSA, particularly morning commutes, much more efficient.
New Conway Airport
After years of planning, dirt is finally moving at the site of a new airport for the city of Conway. The $25 million project is located in the Lollie Bottoms area in the southwest corner of the city. Once opened, the new airport will replace Conway’s existing airport in the center of town. The airport will include a longer runway (5,500 feet) and is located in an area that can accommodate neighboring aviation and commercial needs.
Plans call for the airport to begin service in 2014. Once flights transition to the new airport, the existing 180-acre site will offer an exciting develop opportunity in Conway’s commercial center.
A newly opened 10-mile, four-lane highway now allows travelers to bypass the city of Vilonia as they make the frequent trip between Highway 167 in Beebe and Interstate 40 in Conway. It’s a section of Highway 64 in high demand for freight hauling tractor trailers.
Formerly, traffic made its way through the commercial center of Vilonia, residential areas and schools. The new bypass serves as an “express lane” for vehicles just passing through eastern Faulkner County and shaves significant time off the trip. The $50 million project opened in October.
Faulkner County has added almost 100,000 residents since it has added an exit to Interstate 40. The result has been growing pressure on interstate exits, local streets and highways. The remedy to those problems is already under way — a new full-service interstate exit is planned for I-40.
The exit will be in southern Faulkner County near the current 132 mile marker. The interchange will relieve pressure from the Dave Ward Drive exit, serve The Meadows Technology Park (home to Hewlett-Packard) and stimulate development in southern Conway. Construction on the $28 million project is scheduled to begin in 2012, and the exit is scheduled to open by 2015.
Growth may be the norm in Conway. It has been for decades. However, sustained economic growth cannot be taken for granted. It takes planning, preparation and resources. These projects represent Conway’s commitment to quality growth, first-class infrastructure and a secure economy. They are an investment in our long-term success that we will all soon enjoy.