The Departments of Transportation in Louisiana and Arkansas are holding a dedication ceremony for a new stretch of I-49.

Once this new portion is opened, drivers can travel between Shreveport and Texarkana on I-49 without interruption. I-49 Coalition Executive Director Gard Wayt told me this is a huge development.

"It will connect I-20 and I-30, with all of that traffic now being so much easier to get to and through Shreveport on the way to the Gulf Coast," Wayt said. "It also is the first time that I-49 is crossing a state border."

Wayt said that means I-49 will truly become an INTERstate. He said good pieces of the highway are finished in Missouri, with only six miles left, and a lot completed in Arkansas and Louisiana. But it'll be several years before we see that all finished.

"There is a shortage of funds on the federal level and the state level," he said. "There's $2.5-billion still remaining in Arkansas to be completed, and probably $1.5- to $2-billion in Louisiana that still needs to be completed."

He told me the coalition is just taking this one piece at a time, and the one opening Monday is a really big one. Finding additional sources to fund I-49 completion will be key.

"The I-49 Coalition is promoting the idea of looking at other forms, such as Regional Mobility Authorities, which could do the same thing that the federal government and state governments can do in terms of selling bonds or passing taxes locally to fund transportation projects," he said. "We're also looking at the possibility of tolling the highway, so that the users who travel the highways would actually pay for some
of the maintenance and construction costs."

This new portion of I-49 will be non-stop all the way from Highway 1 in Shreveport to I-39 in Texarkana. The dedication and opening ceremony is set for 1 p.m. Monday, November 10, 2014, at the Arkansas-Louisiana border. Local and state officials are expected to be onhand for the event.


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