October 30, 2013 Edition

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Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House (right) visits with Scott Trammell of Pocahontas, chair of the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority, following a special meeting of the Highway 67 Coalition on Friday. During the meeting, mayors and county judges from Randolph, Lawrence and Clay counties, presented a unified request to the governor and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department regarding the development of Highway 67 north to the Missouri line.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Counties unite to
support future of 67

Gretchen Hunt

Mayors and county judges from Lawrence, Randolph and Clay counties took a major step toward the completion of Highway 67 to the Missouri state line on Friday during a special meeting of the Highway 67 Coalition.

"We are here to make an announcement of an agreement among the key players in the three counties," said Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House, who led the meeting.

The proposal, which will be sent to Gov. Mike Beebe and the Arkansas Highway Commission, calls for a multi-lane highway (four or five lanes) to follow the existing two-lane route with bypasses around Pocahontas and Corning.

"Roads determine the destiny of a community," House said. "This is a very important issue. We want to be able to come together and speak as one voice." Cong. Rick Crawford said having a plan that everyone agrees on is an important benchmark.

"It is very encouraging when you see people come together to work together to find ways to collaborate and move forward," he said. Representatives for Sen. John Boozman and Sen. Mark Pryor echoed that sentiment.

"The senator is proud to see the leadership role you're taking," Nathan Davis with Boozman's office said.

The proposal acknowledged that the highway improvements north of the Missouri state line would not be to interstate standards and suggested making the same decision on the Arkansas side to be able to connect at the Missouri line quicker.

"Hwy. 67 had a lot of glory in days past," House said. "It has some glory now, but we have a gap that has really stifled our development. This will work and this will benefit us now. It will open up a gateway to commerce and allow our communities to progress."

Wayne Gearheart, executive director of the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority, said one of the first things prospective industries ask is how close are you to an interstate or four-lane highway.

"We have four lanes to the south and four lanes to the north, and we are sitting in the middle with two lanes," he said. "I think it would be fair to say it is not only the right thing to do, but it is definitely time to do it."

Representatives of both the Arkansas and Missouri transportation departments also spoke briefly to those gathered.

Jessie Jones with the AHTD Planning Division reported that they are hoping for a decision on the route in the spring.

"I really appreciate this," she said, referring to the proposal. "This comes in handy to be incorporated in the study."

State Sen. Robert Thompson praised the mayors and county judges for reaching an agreement on a proposed route for the highway.

"I can't tell you how happy this makes me or how effective it is," he said. "If you're divided you're going to get conquered."

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