Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Interstate 530 Pine Bluff bypass is named in honor of the late civil rights attorney Wiley A. Branton Sr.
Every day, Jane Wells of Pine Bluff dreads her commute to work. She uses Interstate 530 to get from her home in central Pine Bluff to Little Rock, and the ongoing construction can mean delays and added stress to her day.
“It’s just a nightmare,” Wells said. “I will be so glad when this mess is finished.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, Wells’ wait will be over by the middle of 2019.
The entire 10.4-mile I-530 bypass, which is known as the Wiley A. Branton Sr. Highway, from the Martha Mitchell Expressway to the US 65 interchange is being rebuilt after flaws caused the old roadway to crack and buckle, an ARDOT spokesman said.
Construction on the $67.2 million project began in October 2017 as part of a 2011 voter-backed bond initiative to improve 450 miles of Arkansas interstates at a total cost of $1.3 billion, according to ARDOT.
Like Wells, Marty Towns uses 530 on a daily basis to get to work and back. He said he would try to go around, but the added miles would mean an extra gallon or so of gas each day for his pickup.
“I can’t afford that,” Towns said. “We just have to wait it out and hope that maybe they can get done early.”
One of the reasons the project has taken so long is that engineers and construction workers are having to tear the original concrete down to the bare dirt, then rebuild it back with a layer of asphalt topped with a concrete surface. An ARDOT spokesman said that the original concrete had an adverse reaction with river sand used in the construction process.
Once complete, the new road should last for many years to come, according to ARDOT.
At least one Pine Bluff resident has found a bright spot in the construction. Sheila Easter said that each time she drives by the large machinery, her 5-year-old son “has a ball.”
She said he even requested a set of construction toys for his birthday.
“I may have a future engineer,” Easter said. “At least his joy makes the road work a little more tolerable for me.”