For the first time ever, flooding has caused a 15-mile stretch of Interstate Highway 40 through Arkansas to be closed. According to the Arkansas News, this portion of the highway could be closed at least two days. There will be long delays, both eastbound and westbound, in the days ahead. (Update: 5/6/11 – this stretch of I-40 is still closed. There is a 120-mile detour around the flooded area.) For an update and more information on Arkansas Road Closures, please see this post on the blog.
The article in the Arkansas News today paints a grim picture.
“It’s going to be a real inconvenience … this is one of the most traveled truck routes in the country,” Glen Bolick, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said, noting that about 31,000 vehicles, 60 percent of them big rigs, travel daily on that stretch of the interstate.
The flooding is at the 202 mile marker west of Biscoe. Westbound traffic is being diverted at Brinkley onto U.S. 49 north to Fair Oaks, from there onto U.S. 64 to Bald Knob, then south on U.S. 67/167 south to Little Rock. A section of U.S. 67/167 between Sherwood and Jacksonville just reopened to traffic Wednesday after being closed due to flooding.
I-40’s eastbound lanes were still open by 6 p.m., but highway officials already were rerouting traffic onto U.S. 63 at Hazen, south to Stuttgart, then onto U.S. 165 to Dewitt, to Arkansas 1 to Marvell, where motorists have a choice of taking U.S. 49 north to Brinkley, Arkansas 1 to Forrest City or U.S. 49 east to Helena-West Helena.
Bolick said state highway officials have contacted counterparts in Tennessee and Oklahoma and urged them to suggest alternate routes for motorists who might be crossing into Arkansas. Those routes may include sending motorists around Arkansas by way of St. Louis in Missouri and down to Interstate 20 in northern Louisiana, he said.
Officials expected to close the eastbound lanes later in the day, creating massive traffic jams and long detours for motorists traveling in both directions of one of the busiest east-west interstate routes in the nation.
This is a major snafu for truck traffic coming out of Memphis, Tennessee. Brinkley is just about 65-70 miles west of Memphis, and I-40 is a major trucking route through the mid-south. It’s difficult to imagine the traffic backup. My guess is that a lot of people are going to be spending the night in some unexpected places. What a mess! Don’t even think about driving I-40 through Arkansas right now.