The 42-mile highway, which avoids dangerous curves on two-lane U.S. 71 through the Boston Mountains, was initially expected to be open by Christmas. Slow progress on installing 1,500 lights and other equipment inside the Bobby Hopper Tunnel near Winslow has caused the delay.
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.