Arkansas I-540 Nears Completion
November 25, 1998
Nov. 27 – The final leg of Arkansas’ new $450 million Interstate 540 from Alma to Fayetteville should be open before Christmas, reports the Associated Press. The 42-mile highway avoids dangerous curves on two-lane U.S. 71 through the Boston Mountains.
The exact date the highway will open depends on installation of a complex system of 1,400 lights and other equipment inside the Bobby Hopper Tunnel near Winslow, according to state highway officials.
U.S. 71 has been the main highway into the region since the advent of automobiles. During the past 10 years, 73 people died in accidents on Highway 71 between Alma and Fayetteville. Residents along the old highway say they won’t miss the truck traffic, or the traffic backups of Arkansas Razorbacks fans.
I-540 represents one of the most challenging engineering and construction efforts ever attempted by the state. Bridges stretch to nearly a half-mile long and rise more than 200 feet above valley floors. The highway also features the state’s first highway tunnels.