I-40 Upgrades Causing Headaches For Drivers Around Forrest City

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(St. Francis Co., AR) If you're planning on using I-40 to travel through Arkansas, get ready for traffic to be worse than usual, especially near Forrest City.

Crews are starting a project to widen and upgrade about eight miles of interstate in St. Francis County.

Traffic backups are beginning and so are the headaches.

Bumper to bumper traffic on I-40 at the Forrest City exit -- it's a sign of what drivers can expect for the next year.

Westbound lanes from  exit 38 to the Highway 1 bypass are consolidated into one lane running parallel to a single east bound lane of traffic.

Concrete barriers separate the two lanes.

Big-rig driver Keith Bishop said construction zones are always dangerous, especially when drivers of passenger vehicles don't slow down.

"You'll still see them doing 70, 80-miles an hour trying to beat somebody up to the cutoff point to merge in with the traffic. They're always trying to race into a construction zone and there's no need for that," he said.

Interstate drivers can take Highway 70 to avoid accidents or slowdowns.

That's creating a whole different set of problems because the two lane highway runs through the south side of Forrest City and several other small communities.

Folks aren't used to the large number of 18-wheelers now rumbling up and down the road.

Lenny Williford lives in Madison, Ark., and travels Highway 70 all the time.

"In the evening time you can't get in and out from Madison. You have to come up on Highway 70 and you can't get in. So it's sort of rough then, " he said.

But at the Lakeside Grocery, on Highway 149 in Shell Lake, interstate traffic snarls are really a good thing.

Brandy Bangert, a cashier, has noticed more drivers stopping by,

"It has made our business pick up a lot. From people detouring to get off the one lane interstate to come down 70. It actually has helped us a lot."

The I-40 work should be finished by summer 2014.

Plans are to build a new overpass at the Highway 38 exit and to add several miles of cable barriers in the median.