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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.

I-555 to be dedicated Friday in Jonesboro

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Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department
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Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department

Friday will be a day that has been 40 years in the making.  

In the 1970’s, work started to turn Highway 63 into the Jonesboro bypass project.  Highway 63 eventually became a four-lane road that would connect Jonesboro to I-55.    

After four decades and $250 million of work on the highway, the numbers will change. 

During a ceremony at St. Bernards Auditorium, US 63 will become the new Interstate 555.  The new I-555 will consist of 44 miles from Highway 49 in Jonesboro to I-55 in Crittenden County. 

US Representative Rick Crawford tucked an agricultural exemption into legislation that will make Highway 63 the new I-555 without any bridges being built over the St. Francis Floodway. 

Crawford says the designation will help with economic development along the Interstate:

I talked to some officials from three main cities that are located on the interstate; Jonesboro, Trumann and Marked Tree. 

The President and CEO of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Mark Young says the designation will help bring certain industries to Jonesboro that didn’t consider the city before due to a lack of an interstate:

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Young says certain industries will be notified that Jonesboro is now on an interstate:

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Trumann’s Director of Economic Development Dr. Neil Vickers says it will be easier to market Trumann to businesses:

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He says that property along the interstate will become more valuable with the new designation:

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Marked Tree’s Mayor Mary Ann Arnold says she is happy for the agricultural designation. 

She says that when former Representative Marion Berry was in Washington, he came close to securing the projected $30 to $40 million to have bridges built over the St. Francis Floodway between Payneway and Marked Tree. 

That didn’t happen, but she says she is happy the agricultural exemption passed.

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While the dedication of I-555 takes place Friday, another stretch of highway that is interstate quality that is not an interstate is Highway 67/167.  I asked Congressman Crawford what is preventing that highway from being an interstate:

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Friday's dedication ceremony of the new I-555 takes place from eleven to one in Jonesboro and is expected to have some members of Arkansas’s Congressional Delegation on hand, as well as officials from the State Highway and Transportation Department, Arkansas Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer, and Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Johnathan Reaves is the News Director for KASU Public Radio. As part of an Air Force Family, he moved to Arkansas from Minot, North Dakota in 1986. He was first bitten by the radio bug after he graduated from Gosnell High School in 1992. While working on his undergraduate degree, he worked at KOSE, a small 1,000 watt AM commercial station in Osceola, Arkansas. Upon graduation from Arkansas State University in 1996 with a degree in Radio-Television Broadcast News, he decided that he wanted to stay in radio news. He moved to Stuttgart, Arkansas and worked for East Arkansas Broadcasters as news director and was there for 16 years.