Lawmakers and highway officials looking to widen Highway 412 in Arkansas

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. - It can be a stressful experience: driving on Highway 412 and getting stuck behind a semi-truck or even a tractor.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, "You've got other blockages there of 20-mile stretches, that are two-lane, that slows everything down, and it really prevents people from going from Paragould/Jonesboro area over to Fayeteville/Springdale area."

Parts of the highway are three or four lanes, but the Arkansas Department of Transportation is looking to change that. Lawmakers and highway officials met Wednesday at the University of Arkansas State University - Mountain Home. At a meeting held by the North Arkansas East/West Corridor Association, the transportation department kicked off its study to see exactly how much it'll cost and what they need to do to make all of Highway 412 four lanes.

More than 100 miles of the highway will need to be widened.

Scott Bennett, the director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said, "It's probably going to be in the $300-500 million range to be able to complete that widening to four lanes across the top of the state."

Federal funding may cover some of the cost, since Highway 412 is a high priority corridor, but the department will need state funding as well.

Hutchinson said, "We're going to address this next year in the session of the General Assembly. But that should be referred to a vote of the people. Because any time that we have new revenue stream or increase in the diesel tax, or whatever might be included in that, I want the voters to be able to express themselves on it to see where it's going to go."

Officials said although it's going to be a hefty price tag, they think it will ultimately benefit the people and the economy in northern Arkansas.

Bennett said, "You save wear and tear on your vehicle, you save time on your travel, and all those things really add up to an overall savings. If you have improved highways, you're going to generate additional revenue, additional development which generates additional revenue."

The results of the 412 study should be released by the end of next summer.