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OPINION | DRIVETIME MAHATMA: $187.3M I-30 project near Benton on track for completion this year

by Frank Fellone | February 26, 2022 at 3:30 a.m.

Dear Mahatma: Any info on when the Interstate 30 construction around and west of Benton will be completed? -- J

Dear J: This project is the source of some consternation among our readers. We've also driven through it several times, and find it to be nearly as humongous as the Interstate 30 bridge project.

What's happening about Benton is a project to widen about 5.4 miles of I-30 to six lanes, replace five bridges and reconstruct three interchanges.

All for the bargain price of $187.3 million.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation tells us the project is about half completed, and is still scheduled to be done by the end of this year. That's right, 2022.

Timeline skeptical readers should know that the contractor will be penalized $77,000 a day for each day the project goes over. There is no limit on the number of days to which the penalty applies.

On the other hand, the contractor has an incentive to get it done early -- a $77,000 a day bonus up to 90 days.

Vanity plate on an orange Toyota: COOLKID.

Dear Mahatma: I recently drove to Fayetteville to watch the Hog basketball team and noticed that Interstate 49 is designated the John Paul Hammerschmidt Highway. But I haven't seen, in a long while, signs on Interstate 630 in Little Rock that it's named for Wilbur Mills. -- Pete

Dear Pete: You have taken us on a drive down Political Memory Lane. We will try not to run into a ditch.

John Paul Hammerschmidt was a U.S. congressman who represented the 3rd Congressional District for 13 terms. A Republican, he passed away in 2015. In the early days of our newspaper life, a continuing challenge was to get his name into headlines. Can you spell "H'schmidt," kids?

The Arkansas Department of Transportation said, via spokesman David Nilles, that I-49 was named for Hammerschmidt on Jan. 8, 1999.

Interstate 630 was named for Mills on Sept. 30, 1985. Mills, a Democrat, represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1939 to 1977. By our count, that's 18 two-year terms, and holy cow. Mills passed away in 1992. He was for many years the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and famously was said to know more about the federal tax code than anyone else.

As for the signs, Nilles said they have been taken down over time as construction progressed on the Big Rock Interchange (Interstate 630 and Interstate 430) and Interstate 30 bridge projects. Once the latter is completed (2025), the agency will "address the Wilbur Mills Freeway signs."

Dear Mahatma: I got my new car tag in the mail about two weeks before the first of the month, when it had to be pasted on. Is it okay to stick the thing on, or should I wait? -- Early Bird

Dear Bird: Scott Hardin of the Department of Finance and Administration tells us there's no need to wait. A driver won't, or shouldn't, be stopped for being ahead of schedule.

Print Headline: End ahead on Benton I-30 project


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