The western half of the Highway 412 bypass is open.
Attended by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, members of the Arkansas Highway Commission, Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill, Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon and numerous other city and county officials, the roadway opened Friday with a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m.
“We can’t have economic development without roads,” the governor said in his remarks before the ribbon cutting. “Infrastructure is critical.”
Hutchinson, in recognizing the attendees on hand, also took care to recognize one significant figure who wasn’t.
“Tom Kirk had been a driving force behind transportation infrastructure including the bypass,” he said, “and I know he’s smiling down from heaven on us here today.”
Kirk passed away Nov. 24.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Kirk’s widow Theresa Kirk. “He’d be so proud,” added his daughter Kristin Kirk. “It’s a wonderful day,” said longtime friend and fellow Chamber member H.T. Moore. “I wish he’d been here.”
Mayor Gaskill told the audience of a prophetic document he had received right after he took office. “I was elected mayor in October 1997,” he said, “and in November I got this study that showed the problems with 412.” The problems, he said, were congested areas in the city that would be alleviated by a bypass around Paragould. “And there’s a place in this that says the estimated completion date for the 412 bypass is 2020,” he said. “It was like opening a time capsule.”
County Judge McMillon, in underscoring the importance of infrastructure like the bypass, traced the history of the nearby city of Powhatan, noted its rise and decline through the addition and loss of infrastructure. “And Greene County is a great contributor to Arkansas’ success,” he said.
According to District 10 Engineer Brad Smithee of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, length of the bypass is 10 miles total; the length of the west bypass is 5.175 miles. All together, the bypass project took nearly eight years, at a total cost of $41,594,283.