Segments being designed:
EIS process underway from I-20 at Houghton to U.S. 82 west of El Dorado (FR Notice); from U.S. 82 west of El Dorado to U.S. 65 (FR Notice); from U.S. 65 to the Charles W. Dean (Great River) Bridge (FR Notice); from Charles W. Dean (Great River) Bridge to Robinsonville (FR Notice).
A Final Environmental Impact Statement has been approved for the Southeast Arkansas I-69 Connector (I-530 extension). Right-of-way acquisition and some construction is currently underway.
An FEIS has also been approved for the Charles W. Dean (Great River Bridge), and its approaches; the Record of Decision was signed June 23, 2004.
Segments under construction:
Segments open to traffic:
Sections marked with (*) were not originally designed as part of I-69, but instead are other freeways that could possibly be integrated into the route.
From Haughton, Louisiana, I-69 will probably be built on a new alignment towards Haynesville. From Haynesville, the freeway will enter Arkansas and run northeast to U.S. 82 west of El Dorado.
From El Dorado, I-69 will generally continue along or near U.S. 167 to Hampton, crossing the Ouachita River either at the U.S. 167 crossing or to the northwest near Miller's Bluff, or along U.S. 63 (former AR 15) to Warren, then join U.S. 278 eastward. Just west of Monticello, I-69 would have an interchange with the I-530 extension, then continue east to U.S. 65 at McGehee.
The preferred corridor [JPEG; 492k] for I-69, as presented at the official project website, would start at U.S. 82 west of El Dorado. It would travel north, then curve east-north-east to cross AR 7 just north of Louann and the Ouachita River north of Smackover. From there, it would travel roughly due east, crossing U.S. 167 south of Hampton and U.S. 63 south of Warren (near the AR 8 intersection). East of Warren, the corridor splits with alternatives north and south of Wilmar and Monticello; the two alternatives rejoin east of Monticello and head roughly due east to meet U.S. 65 just north of McGehee.
In March 2003, four potential alignments for the route were presented at public meetings. Maps depicting the alignments are available at the project website.
In October 2004, a preferred alignment for the route, “Line 5” was selected by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. This alignment will directly impact only 5 residential properties over a 103-mile route. The estimated construction cost for this section is approximately $800 million.
I-69 would continue east of McGehee to Arkansas City, and cross the Mississippi River using the proposed Great River Bridge crossing. The bridge would be approximately 4.25 miles (6.85 km) long, including a 1500-foot (460 m) cable-stayed span over the main channel of the river; it would have four lanes for traffic, as well as inner and outer shoulders. The weight of the main span of the bridge would be supported by cables suspended from two 450-foot towers.
The estimated cost of constructing the bridge is $565 million, of which approximately $9 million has already been secured.
Mississippi House Concurrent Resolution 94 (1999) and Arkansas HCR 1011 (2003) designate the bridge the “Charles W. Dean Bridge,” in memory of the engineer who proposed building the bridge in 1984.
The complete Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for this section is available at NationalI69.org.
Between the Great River Bridge at Eutaw Landing and Robinsonville, Mississippi, a final corridor has been chosen that generally east from the bridge to northwest of Shaw, where the route turns northward to bypass Boyle and Cleveland to the east before joining U.S. 61 near Merigold. I-69 will then generally follow U.S. 61 north to Clarksdale, use the existing south/east bypass of Clarksdale, then turn north again running roughly along U.S. 61 to near Rich, where the route will diverge to the east through Tunica County to its northern terminus at existing MS 304.
The MDOT study website includes a map of the selected routing.
From existing MS 304 near Robinsonville, I-69 will follow the MS 304 spur (unsigned MS 713) north to relocated MS 304, and then follow MS 304 east to I-55 near Green T Road between Hernando and Nesbit. This route is currently under construction and is to be completed in late 2006, at an estimated cost of $100 million. For more details, see the Highway 304 page at LordSutch.com.
I have prepared a map that shows a likely route for I-69 in Mississippi, showing SIUs 9–12.
This section includes two proposed spur routes identified by the Corridor 18 Special Issues Study:
Arkansas is planning to extend the Interstate 530 freeway from Pine Bluff to meet I-69 near Monticello, roughly following the U.S. 425 corridor. AHTD has received final approval for the EIS (see their press release).
The proposed extension would be approximately 38 miles long, from current I-530 just east of the southern U.S. 63 interchange near Pine Bluff to U.S. 278 about one mile east of Wilmar. The route includes interchanges at AR 114 west of Star City and AR 35, as well as connectors to U.S. 63 east of Pinebergen and AR 11 and U.S. 425 near Cornerville. Instead of upgrading portions of U.S. 425, the route would be completely on new alignment, several miles to the west.
According to this press release, the route will be built in five segments. AHTD has already secured $100 million of the $300 million in funding needed to design and construct the connector; according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (October 24, 2002, page 11), the state transportation commission has ordered AHTD to begin right-of-way acquisition for the entire route.
In January 2003, AHTD decided to go ahead with construction on two portions of the route: from Pinebergen to existing I-530, at the northern end, and from U.S. 278 to AR 35, at the southern end. The northern portion will be built as to full Interstate standards, while the southern portion will be initially constructed as a “Super 2” freeway, with two-way traffic but grade-separated interchanges.
In addition, the State of Arkansas is proposing the construction of a regional intermodal freight terminal near the interchange of the Pine Bluff spur and I-69 proper.
FHWA has featured the connector as a "Success in Environmental Streamlining".
The connector was added to I-69 to mollify former congressman Jay Dickey, who originally wanted I-69 to split into two routes between El Dorado and Memphis, with one route crossing the Mississippi near Memphis and the other crossing at the Great River Bridge; this would have been half of the so-called “Dickey Split.” (Some Arkansas interests still want a Pine Bluff-Memphis freeway roughly along the U.S. 79 corridor that would complete the Dickey Split.) In addition, the design of the corridor would accomodate a future extension to the south, perhaps to I-20 near Monroe (La.) or even as far as Baton Rouge or Lake Charles.
The city of Greenville (Miss.) and Washington County conducted a study in 2000 proposing a new 22–24 mile connector route from proposed I-69 west of Benoit to the forthcoming U.S. 82 Greenville Bypass (also a freeway), which would also function as an eastern bypass for MS 1 traffic around Greenville. Although a freeway is possible, the study only considered two-lane and four-lane expressway options including at-grade intersections. For more details, including a detailed summary of the study and a map, please refer to Adam Froehlig's Greenville Connector Route (I-169) page.
While this project has not been adopted by MDOT as of yet, and is not one of the I-69 SIUs, it may be added to the state's highway program eventually. However, during the 2000 legislative session, Senate Bill 2229 proposed an act to build the connector as a four-lane highway, but it did not make it out of committee, and MDOT's “Vision 21” proposal does not include this route, so it may be a while before such a route is constructed.
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