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‘Future of Lonoke’ in new I-40 interchange

<p>Courtesy photo</p><p>More than 10 years of efforts by Lonoke city leaders paid off Friday with the award of a $7.9 million contract to build a new, second interchange for Interstate 40. The interchange will be built at the present location of the Arkansas Highway 89 overpass. Arkansas Highway Department spokesman Randy Ort said that because of winter weather construction is not likely to begin before spring. The contract was awarded to Redstone Construction Group, Inc. of Little Rock.</p>

Courtesy photo

More than 10 years of efforts by Lonoke city leaders paid off Friday with the award of a $7.9 million contract to build a new, second interchange for Interstate 40. The interchange will be built at the present location of the Arkansas Highway 89 overpass. Arkansas Highway Department spokesman Randy Ort said that because of winter weather construction is not likely to begin before spring. The contract was awarded to Redstone Construction Group, Inc. of Little Rock.

Award of the construction contract on the Interstate 40/Arkansas Highway 89 interchange is exciting news for the city, Lonoke mayor Wayne McGee said Wednesday. “Things are going to be different now … this is going to open up for businesses to come in.”

Former state Senator Bobby Glover remarked that the interchange “Is the future for Lonoke … this is great news for Lonoke, it’s been 10 years coming,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Arkansas State Highway Commission announced the award of a nearly $7.9 million contract to Redstone Construction Group of Little Rock to build the interchange and new overpass

The press release noted that, “The project reflects how the county and the state worked together to create a second access point to Interstate 40.”

Bill Ryker, Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce, Highway Committee member, said the decade-long effort to get the interchange involved a large number of people.

“But there is one name that runs through it all, and that’s Bobby Glover,” Ryker said. “[Glover] kept us on track.”

Glover, however, pointed to the City of Lonoke. “By [City council] agreeing to take over Third Street is the way [AHD] provided the money they needed for the contract,” he said.

Glover said the available funds for the contract fell about $700,000 short of the low bid.

“But this will be the future for Lonoke. This will be the expansion of industry,” Glover said.

Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce executive director John Garner described Glover as, “The driving force” behind getting the interchange through government channels.

“But I am elated for the [Chamber] Highway Committee. All those members just kept it going,” Garner said.

In the past six or seven years, there have been eight industries that considered locating to Lonoke, but were dissuaded by the poor routing to the industrial area, Garner said.

The interchange will give direct access to the area zoned for industrial development.

“One company committed to Lonoke, all they asked for was a letter committing to the interchange. We couldn’t get it, so they went to Texas. That would have been 125, 150 jobs,” Garner said.

AHC spokesman Randy Ort on Tuesday said start of construction is dependent on weather, and it is possible that work would not begin until spring. The AHC press release estimated construction to take about two years.

The project will replace the current Highway 89 overpass.

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