US Highway 412 may soon be designated as a future highway connecting Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the I-49 corridor of northwest Arkansas, the cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale.
While the future freeway could benefit Arkansas and Oklahoma, the potential freeway could impact Siloam Springs by bypassing the city instead of crossing it.
The Council of Indian Nations Governments (INCOG), a voluntary association of local and tribal governments in the Tulsa metropolitan area, passed Resolution 307 on May 11 urging the United States Congress to designate US Highway 412 from I-35 to I-49 to Springdale as a future freeway, according to a copy of the resolution.
On Friday May 21, US Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), John Boozman (R-Rogers) and Tom Cotton (R-Little Rock) introduced a bill to designate 189 miles of US 412 as the future highway interstate, according to an article in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette on May 22.
The proposed highway would improve supply chain connectivity for major retail and industrial employers in the region, including Walmart in northwest Arkansas and several energy and aerospace companies in the region. northeastern Oklahoma, the article said. Boozman and Cotton released the following joint statement on Monday:
“An official interstate highway designation is a key thing developers look for when deciding where to invest. We can continue to encourage future opportunities for economic growth by upgrading Highway 412 to interstate standards. The introduction of our bill is the first step in this process. We look forward to working with our colleagues, the communities along Highway 412, and the Arkansas Department of Transportation to make this a reality in the years to come. “
Speculation has grown that Siloam Springs will be bypassed by the future highway. At the May 18 city council meeting, city administrator Phillip Patterson said he found a 2004 Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) study that considered bypassing Siloam Springs and West Siloam Springs.
The study summary looked at three different corridors and recommended that the preferred option for the bypass would take the highway north and northeast of Siloam Springs and best serve existing and planned industrial development, the summary says. .
Tim Conklin, deputy director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission (NWARPC) and director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Transportation Study (NARTS), said in a telephone interview Monday that the highway should be investigated by ArDOT and the department. Oklahoma Transportation (ODOT). ) before decisions can be made about a bypass.
Not an overnight proposition
Leslie Price, a researcher at Indiana University, working on her doctoral thesis Rebranding the Rural, which talks about rural economies and also explains how I-69 affected rural Greene County, Indiana , said highways are not an overnight proposition.
“The process is so long from the starting point to its construction because there is so much bureaucracy. It will take time,” said Price.
She said I-69 was designated in the 1990s, but the land was not opened until 2008. Price also said that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a high priority list of corridors that the government agreed to fund, many of which have yet to receive funding.
Even states that are renovating roads to upgrade them to interstate funding have struggled to secure the funding and support needed to complete the project, Price said.
The process involves mandatory public meetings, as well as an environmental impact study, Federal Highway Administration approval, and money raised to build the freeway, Price said.
“Long story short, it’s a far cry from wanting a highway to get one,” Price said.
Patterson echoed similar comments at the city council meeting saying he didn’t think the bypass would happen in his lifetime.
What the public can do
Price said the best method for people who are for or against the freeway is to contact their local and national representatives. State officials hold the power of the stock market, Price said.
“Even if (the proposed highways) are passed and put on the priority list and the government agrees to fund them, the state still has to provide the money,” Price said.
The federal government will match the state government at a 90/10 ratio, according to Frequently Asked Questions from the Federal Highway Administration.
When asked how the freeway would affect Siloam Springs, Price replied that it was hard to say. Highways are important parts of future economic growth, but not the only one, Price said.
She saw cities crossed by freeways that did not bring the expected growth and other cities without freeways that saw tremendous growth, Price said.