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GRIDLOCK GURU I-540 adds road names to its exits

Posted: August 27, 2010 at 4:50 a.m.

Fayetteville’s Garland Avenue, Springdale’s Sunset Avenue, Lowell’s Monroe Avenue and Bentonville’s Southeast 14th Street connect to Interstate 540, but they aren’t mentioned on exit signs.

That’ll change because Northwest Arkansas is now considered urban, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department reports. This “urban” designation must come as a real shocker to the 425,000 people who live in Benton and Washington counties.

Those I-540 traffic jams, including the one Wednesday morning that locked up northbound traffic from Springdale to Rogers for better than 45 minutes, were in a rural area of Arkansas. Who knew rural could be so congested?

The Highway Department will spend $750,000 on the switch to urban interstate signs at 19 exits on I-540 between Cato Springs Road in Fayetteville (Exit 60) and the Missouri state line. The change should occur gradually over the next few weeks.

The Highway Department would have spent the money anyway as the old signs just aren’t the bright shade of green that they used to be, said Highway Department spokesman Glenn Bolick. They were due to be replaced.

The signs at nine of the 19 exits will include different information than they do now.

That’s because exit signs in rural areas most often list the connecting highway’s number and the name of the cities closest to an exit.

Lowell, Cave Springs and Rogers are all mentioned on the main I-540 exit onto Arkansas 264 (Exit 78).

The switch to urban moves the cities’ names to smaller signs leading to the exit. The main exit sign will mention Arkansas 264 and “W Monroe Ave,” Lowell’s name for Arkansas 264.

The other eight exits where street names will be more prominent are for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Fayetteville (Exit 62), Garland (Exit 66), Great House Spring Road in Johnson (Exit 69), Sunset (Exit 72), Walnut Street in Rogers and Southeast Walton Boulevard in Bentonville (Exit 85), Southeast 14th Street (Exit 86), Central Avenue in Bentonville (Exit 88) and North Walton Boulevard in Bentonville (Exit 93).

HIGHWAY KUDZU

James Haynes of Fayetteville saw what might be kudzu growing on trees near the Arkansas 16 bridge between Fayetteville and Siloam Springs.

“Just before I got to the Illinois River, I noticed the bank beside the road is covered by some kind of ‘viny’ plant, which is growing up into the trees,” Haynes writes. “Now, I don’t know a tulip from a turnip, but I wonder if this is the dreaded kudzu vine that is devouring the Southern states.”

The answer is that it could be, as it does grow in other parts of the state.

Highway Department agronomist Charlie Flowers expects to be in Northwest Arkansas on other business next week, and he’ll go see if the vines are kudzu.

If it is, the Highway Department will do what it can to eradicate it, Flowers said.

Robert J. Smith, aka The Guru, writes on traffic issues in Northwest Arkansas on Fridays. He can be reached at nwaonline.com/guru or guru@arkansasonline.com.

Northwest Arkansas, Pages 7 on 08/27/2010

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