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Lawmakers have been working since the 1970s to turn a 44 mile stretch of U.S. Highway 63 into Interstate 555. KASU News has been following the development of this once-in-a-lifetime story and it's impact on Northeast Arkansas.

Crawford: Highway Bill Deadline is November 22; I-555 in the Bill

Mike's Music News

The US House and Senate are in final negotiations concerning the federal highway bill.  The bill must reach President Barack Obama’s desk by November 22nd, where he is expected to sign it.  An exemption for agricultural vehicles to travel on U-S Highway 63 is in the bill. 

That exemption allows for Highway 63 to become the new Interstate-555.  U-S Representative Rick Crawford was in Jonesboro last night. 

He is a conferee and is helping reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.  Crawford tells KASU news there is a huge push to get the highway bill done in the next week:

“I think there is a sense of urgency to get this done, especially on the Senate side.  About 2/3 of the bill is already agreed to [including the I-555 designation], so we are talking about the remaining 1/3.”

Crawford says the federal highway bill is a six year authorization bill that is fully funded for three years.  He says the designation will be a catalyst for future growth in the region.

“When you are talking about economic development, interstate access is crucial.  When you have an interstate in your community, that is everything to attract new business.”

Crawford says this designation will have a positive impact for much of the region.

“This is not just a Jonesboro benefit, this will affect a lot of people in northeast Arkansas.  Blytheville and Osceola would benefit, Paragould and Jonesboro would benefit, Marion and West Memphis, and the list goes on.  There are so many towns that will benefit from this designation.”

Once President Obama signs the highway bill into law, the state Highway Commission would then approve the designation and I-555 would become a reality.