Today's Paper Newsletters Cooking Obits LEARNS Guide Classifieds Podcasts Tablet Help Sports Jobs Contact us Puzzles Public Notices

ArDOT opens long-delayed expressway extension

by From Staff Reports | September 19, 2023 at 4:05 a.m.
Traffic heads north and south on the new King Expressway extension after it opened to traffic Monday evening from the roundabout at the junction of highways 5 and 7. The extension links the junction to the expressway's Highway 70 east interchange. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

The Arkansas Department of Transportation opened the long-delayed 5.8-mile extension of the King Expressway early Monday evening.

Southbound traffic could be observed moving on the expressway shortly before 5 p.m. on a live video feed posted on iDrive Arkansas. The northbound lane was opened minutes later, shortly after 5 p.m.

ArDOT has said the more than $85 million extension will cut travel time in half from Hot Springs to Hot Springs Village.

ArDOT previously said the two-lane route connecting the Highway 70 east interchange to the junction of highways 5 and 7 would open in October, which would have put completion 14 months behind the August 2022 date ArDOT projected when McGeorge Contracting began threading the route through the rugged backcountry east of Hot Springs in late 2019.

"The Arkansas State Legislature designated the bypass as a scenic highway due to its beautiful, steep, tree-lined views through the Ouachita Mountains," ArDOT said in a news release Monday afternoon.

"This new bypass will significantly reduce the travel time to and from Hot Springs Village, Fountain Lake, and other areas north of Hot Springs," ArDOT Director Lorie Tudor said in the release.

"There are a number of challenges when it comes to constructing new location roads, especially in the middle of the Ouachita Mountains; we were able to overcome those challenges and complete this important arterial connection for the growing population of Garland County," Tudor said.

ArDOT plans to host a ribbon-cutting celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 24. "Those event details will be announced at a later date," the release said.

Garland County contributed $30 million to the cost of the project, after voters authorized an extension of the 0.625% countywide sales tax in a June 2016 special election.

The more than $50 million bond issue it serviced provided the county's cost share on what was a $75 million project. Change orders raised the cost to more than $80 million, but the county wasn't responsible for the additional costs.

ArDOT projected a May 2023 opening last spring after revealing its bridge division sent incorrect information to the manufacturer of mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls for the bridge over Mill Creek Road. The mistake wasn't discovered until the walls had been built and proved too short and steep for a proper slope.

"Due to the small angle of the MSE walls, a safe slope along the edge of the roadway was not obtained," according to the $1.17 million change order the state Highway Commission authorized. "Therefore, it was determined that additional MSE walls must be constructed in order to flatten the slopes at the bridge ends."

Issues with bridges over Covenant Trail and Quarry Mountain Road revealed this spring pushed the May opening into the fall. ArDOT said base material under the bridge ends failed to properly compact, causing them to settle and the bridge decks to slide on their bearing plates. The movement closed the bridges' expansion joints.

Drilling compaction grout under the ends, $389,298, was the costliest of the more than a dozen items in the $1.07 million change order ArDOT requested.

  photo  A drone photo taken Monday morning by ArDOT photographer Rusty Hubbard shows a completed section of the King Expressway extension prior to being open to traffic. Photo is courtesy of ArDOT. - Submitted photo
  photo  A drone photo taken Monday morning by ArDOT photographer Rusty Hubbard shows an overpass on the King Expressway extension prior to being open to traffic. Photo is courtesy of ArDOT. - Submitted photo

Print Headline: ArDOT opens long-delayed expressway extension


Sponsor Content