FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor announced January 7 that construction of the Inerstate 49 section from Chaffee Crossing in Barling to the Interstate 40 intersection at Alma will begin in the Fall of 2022.

According to a news release from Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, the announcement came during Tudor’s presentation during the monthly First Friday Breakfast event hosted by the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

FCRA CEO Daniel Mann expressed appreciation and confidence in the announcement. “We are sincerely thankful for ArDOT’s fulfillment of promises to Arkansas voters following passage of Issue 1 in November 2020,” Mann said.

The release says as part of the Issue 1 package, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas State Legislature, and the Arkansas Highway Commission presented voters with the opportunity to fund new highway construction projects including the 13.5-mile section of Interstate 49 from Barling to Alma.

The original environmental study and Interstate 49 corridor alignment were approved by the Federal Highway Administration in 1997.

In 2017, ArDOT began pursuing an update of the environmental study and planning documents for the project in the hope of the availability of future funding, according to the release.

With the passage of Issue 1, the additional funding became available. That funding, in addition to the FCRA donation of the necessary property at the Barling interchange in Chaffee Crossing, has made it possible for ArDOT to begin construction on the portion of the project later in 2022.