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|Web site launched to spark interest in I-530|
A web site established by proponents of plans to build an interstate spur from northeast Louisiana into southern Arkansas went live this week, thanks to the efforts by one area businessman.
Former Ouachita Parish Police Jury president Ben Marshall, an attorney, said he funded construction of the web site, www.i530.org, to provide an information clearinghouse about the proposed road that would connect Interstate 20 to the proposed route of Interstate 69, near Pine Bluff, Ark.
"We felt like we needed a point where people could come to learn about the proposed interstate and comment and discuss, ask more questions," Marshall said. "Since we're dealing with folks stretched from Pine Bluff possibly as far as Lake Charles, we needed a place where it could be discussed."
Marshall said recent media reports about the proposed interstate have led to increased interest in seeing the project come to fruition.
"The Arkansas folks are extremely interested in this project going forward," Marshall said. "We're also starting to see some interest from the Louisiana side."
Marshall said a number of individuals from Arkansas have proved to be valuable contacts. He added that www.i530.org could help unite people behind the project.
As previously reported in The Ouachita Citizen, the spur would extend from I-69, which is scheduled to be built through southern Arkansas, to I-20 in the Monroe/West Monroe area. The proposed spur would be called Interstate 530.
Leading the effort to build I-530 is Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross, who chairs the I-69 Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Congressman Ross is working to extend I-69 corridor south toward Monroe by bringing Interstate 530 into the Monroe area," said Ross spokesman Jon Niven. "He's working with the I-69 Congressional Caucus, and within the state, we are working on our end because we've still got a ways to go."
I-530 is currently projected to extend from Little Rock, Ark., south to Pine Bluff.
Officials from Monticello, Ark., and Crossett, Ark., are pressing to extend I-530 south to Crossett. Officials acted on that front after International Paper's operation in Crossett noted the difficulty of moving supplies into southeastern Arkansas.
Across southeastern Arkansas, business and community leaders have organized behind the I-530 initiative, said Reginald Glover, vice chairman of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Authority.
Glover said construction is currently underway on a number of segments of the highway between Little Rock and Pine Bluff.
"Right now, we're building it as Arkansas 530, but it'll be designated Interstate 530 when completed," Glover said.
Marshall said he intended to attend a meeting on Thursday in Monticello about the proposed highway and other regional transportation initiatives.
Marshall said recent publicity has increased visibility for the project, but work was just beginning.
"The interest is much higher," Marshall said. "However, it's all going to depend on what's contained in the economic feasibility study."
Marshall said it all comes down to a question of finding the money to build the road.
"We have a long way to go," Marshall said. "But we have to start down the road or we'll never get anywhere."