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|Officials to unveil feasibility study for proposed interstate spur|
The findings of a study to determine whether it is feasible to build an interstate highway connecting the Monroe/Monroe area with Crossett, Ark, will be unveiled at a public meeting next week.
Co-hosted by the state highway departments from Arkansas and Louisiana, the public meeting is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 26, at Bastrop Municipal Center in Bastrop.
Arkansas and Louisiana highway department officials will be on hand to discuss the feasibility study prepared by Parsons Corp., of Memphis, Tenn. The Parsons study explored the costs and benefits of extending Interstate 530 south from Crossett to Interstate 20 near Monroe.
Over the past 12 months, representatives from Parsons combed over traffic flow reports, demographic maps and other information to determine the economic feasibility of building the I-530 spur.
Dan Broussard of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development said Thursday's meeting would focus strictly on the feasibility study.
"I want to make it clear to the public that I don't want them to think that Louisiana DOTD is about to start building a road because we're not," said Broussard. "There is no funding identified to build this road."
Broussard said he was unaware of any funding at either the state or local levels for environmental impact studies or corridor studies.
Before the I-530 proposal could move forward, those studies would have to be conducted.
The cost of the studies could easily run into the millions of dollars.
Broussard said the feasibility study that will be unveiled next week was funded by a special appropriation from Congress. The Arkansas Department of Transportation received it.
Though no official route has been selected for the proposed I-530 connector, Broussard said the feasibility study conducted by Parsons focused on two possible corridors: one near Monroe and one near Rayville.
Officials opted to set the meeting in Bastrop because the municipality is near the center of the affected region, according to Broussard.
"In order to make it hopefully available to as many people as possible, this final meeting is going to be held in Bastrop, which is geographically in the middle of the study area," Broussard said.
He said a meeting concerning the I-530 feasibility study was held in Monroe last year.
Since that initial meeting last year, officials throughout northeastern Louisiana and southern Arkansas have hailed the importance of the I-530 project to economic development in both states.
The project has drawn support from local, state and federal officials.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, called the project "economically viable" and said he looked forward to the day when the proposed connector is built.
"It's a much doable project," Alexander said. "That's the reason we are concentrating on that effort."
Alexander has been working closely with Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross, who initially proposed funding for the feasibility study.
Ross has been working toward the completion of Interstate 69 through southern Arkansas. He said connecting I-20 with I-69, via I-530, "just made sense."
Ross said one thing working in favor of the I-530 project is it is much smaller in scale and costs. Ross pointed out that I-530 could be completed well before I-69 opens sometime in the next decade.
Though funding has been made available for the I-69 project, Ross cautioned any new interstate construction projects could be years away.
"These interstates take time and don't happen overnight," Ross said. "Just the Arkansas portion (of I-69) will cost $1.6 billion."