- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas officials have set plans for highway construction in Garland County to catch up with the county’s population growth.

Bids for a project to widen U.S. 70 from Interstate 30 in Saline County to Hot Springs in Garland County are expected to open in December, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2eMfve5 ).

The project, which will widen a mostly two-lane road into a five-lane thoroughfare, covers 19 miles and is projected to be completed by 2019. The road has been the site of several fatal crashes in recent years.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department is scheduled to begin preliminary work next year on a new north-south bypass extending US 270 from US 70 to Arkansas 5 on the east side of Hot Springs. In 2018, the department is expected to widen roads and flatten hills on Arkansas 7 between Hot Springs and Arkansas 5.

The projects are to address traffic congestion brought on by population growth in the area. Garland County Judge Rick Davis said the work is long overdue.

“There’s a massive amount of traffic going through there,” Davis said. He added that the traffic congestion makes it difficult for law enforcement personnel, emergency responders like fire and ambulance crews, and tourists to travel in that part of the county.

A study approved by the Arkansas Highway Commission found that even with the widening of the road, congestion won’t be relieved until the bypass is completed. The cost of the bypass project is estimated at $60 million.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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