Topics: Rodney E. Slater, Interstate Highway System
U.S. Department of Transportation
January 8, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 8, 1999
Contact: Kara Gerhardt
Tel.: (202) 366-5580
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today joined in the dedication of the final 32 miles of Interstate 540 in Arkansas, a highway that he said will improve the safety of highway travel in the state while enhancing mobility and economic growth.
The Secretary, along with Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, members of the state’s congressional delegation and state highway officials, dedicated the final segment of the 48-mile interstate in a ceremony at the Bobby Hopper Tunnel near Winslow. I-540, running between Alma and Fayetteville, will provide an alternative route to U.S. 71.
"Reader’s Digest called U.S. 71 one of the most dangerous highways in America," Secretary Slater said. "Now Arkansans have a new highway that is not only one of America’s safest, but one that will significantly reduce travel time between Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith and provide a boost to the state’s economy as well."
I-540 was designated the "John Paul Hammerschmidt Highway" in honor of the former U.S. representative from Arkansas, in attendance at today’s ceremony, who helped launch the project. The highway was initially approved in 1987, and was built at a cost of $458 million, of which $379 million was granted by DOT’s Federal Highway Administration.
The new highway will greatly improve safety through full access control, separation of through and local traffic, a roadside area clear of most obstructions and state-of-the-art crash avoidance systems, the Secretary said.
I-540 will cut 20 minutes from the the current one-hour travel time between I-40 and Fayetteville, Secretary Slater said, cutting fuel costs for drivers and commercial shippers. The regional economy will receive a boost from improved access to markets and production sites, he added.
The Bobby Hopper Tunnel was named for a current state highway commissioner, in attendance at today’s ceremony, who has represented northwest Arkansas on the commission for 16 years. The two tunnels, representing $37.1 million of the total project costs, are the first tunnels in the state of Arkansas.