The next phases of construction on U.S. 82 and U.S. 425 are set to start in the coming weeks.

The Arkansas Highway Commission has approved bids to widen sections of the two highways in Ashley County.

The first bid awarded was to widen 5.4 miles of U.S. 82 between U.S. 425 and Hamburg. A news release from the highway commission said the work should start sometime between next week and the end of the month, depending on weather.

Completion of the construction is expected late next year, according to the news release.

The winning bid of $25,704,204.59 went to JB James Construction of Baton Rouge, La.

The second bid was to widen 10 miles of U.S. 425 between the Louisiana state line and its intersection with U.S. 82.

That bid was awarded to Diamond B Construction of Alexandria, La., for $44,594,955.66

If weather permits, crews will start working on the project some time between next week and the end of the month. The phase of construction that will start at the state line is expected to last into late 2020.

Both projects are part of a larger lane-widening project on U.S. 82. and 425, which are in turn part of the larger Connecting Arkansas program, which voters approved in the 2012 general election.

The $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas project is funded by a half-cent sales tax dedicated to the construction of four-lane highways that will connect the four corners of the state. The tax revenue is split, with 70 percent dedicated to general improvements in the state highway system, 15 percent dedicated to counties and 15 percent to local communities.

The program has a 2023 sunset, requiring all work be completed by that date, when the tax will be abolished by the State Constitution.

Currently in Ashley County, highway 82 has a width restriction between the mile 16 and 17.25 markers on all lanes and has alternating shoulder closures as work on a previously awarded bid progress.

That road work has been ongoing since November 2017.

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