LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Just in time for the holiday weekend, there is some major relief on a major Arkansas highway.
We're talking about an 11-mile stretch of Interstate 40 between Hazen and Brinkley. For past the year-and-a-half, drivers faced one lane of traffic both ways because of road and bridge work. And if there was an accident, everything came to standstill. But the headaches are now over.
"It was slow, really slow," said Hiawatha Jones of Little Rock.
"It was frustrating because it just took absolutely too long," Brenda Jones said.
That's how Hiawatha and Brenda Jones remember "the before" along I-40 between Hazen and Brinkley. But now, with all four lanes of traffic open in both directions, the Little Rock couple heading to West Memphis July 4th couldn't be happier.
"I'm loving it," Hiawatha Jones said.
"I mean it was just totally different from any trip during the last two years during the construction," Brenda Jones said.
It was construction on a major artery between Little Rock and Memphis that now includes a new layer of pavement and some replacement bridges. The highway department estimates 40,000 vehicles daily use the 11-mile stretch that's now fully open.
"Never slowed down, kept moving, traffic kept moving," said Larry Herring of Benton.
Herring was in the passenger seat Thursday on his way back from Memphis. He uses this highway about every other weekend and says that he'll now ditch previous detours.
"You think you'll stay on the highway? THV 11's Max Seigle asks.
"Oh yeah, Oh yeah," Herring said.
"Much faster, I'm saving 20 to 30 minutes on the average," Hiawatha Jones said.
"Just comfortable," his wife added.
It's welcome relief from long-term pain turning into major gain in this area of I-40 this holiday weekend.
We should note, while all four lanes are open on this stretch of I-40, some final touches will require some minor lane closures next week and it will only last part of a day.
We should also note that drivers will face some lane closures in other parts of the state this holiday weekend.
In the Russellville area, about an eight-mile stretch of I-40 will have one lane operating in both directions.
There will also be lane closures along an eight-mile stretch of I-540 from Van Buren to Fort Smith and an eight-mile stretch on I-530 between Little Rock and Pine Bluff.
There will also be a five-mile stretch of U.S. 67 near Bald Knob with lane closures.
A spokesman for the highway department says that folks should allow for extra time when traveling this July 4th holiday weekend.
"I think it's safe if someone would allow an extra 15 to 30 minutes, I know that sounds like a lot but in the big scheme of things, when you're talking about three or four or five-day weekend, that's not a whole lot of time," Randy Ort said.