LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Billions of dollars are being spent on Arkansas transportation projects. But what do those projects entail?
Airport renovations in three phases:
"The largest construction project in airport history. We want our airport to give a good first impression and a last impression," says Shane Carter, the spokesman for the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
"The first phase which is a $67 million project will be finished in February. You're going to be seeing a large overhaul to our ticket lobby," Carter says.
But you won't see an increase in ticket prices or taxes, as federal grants paid for the project.
"The bags will be taken over in an automatic screening process and then distributed to the airlines," Carter adds.
Originally set for 2020, phase two may get underway over the next few years in smaller portions. Renovations include new terminals and interior redesign, with the ultimate goal of full-scale international flights.
"This will allow the addition of four international gates, plus it will also allow for the construction of a federal inspection station that will house immigration and customs," Carter says.
Light and high speed rail is said to be the future of the Arkansas railroad. A number of projects are in the works. There are about a dozen federally designated high speed rail corridors around the country and Little Rock is one.
High speed trains could travel up to 200 miles per hour, but more likely 80 to 90 miles an hour in Arkansas on existing freight rail tracks.
Jim McKenzie is the executive director of Metroplan, the company which details long-rang city planning.
"It's the South-Central High Speed rail corridor that comes up out of Dallas, Texas and extends into Little Rock and also branches over to Oklahoma City, consider extending that corridor from Little Rock to Memphis, which I think would be a great connection," says McKenzie.
While high speed rail is intended for travel across the nation, light rail is for more inter-city travel in Arkansas. It's something McKenzie says depends on the population numbers, but is likely by 2030.
"The first deployment is the I-630 corridor from west Little Rock through downtown out to the airport. We're just finishing up a feasibility study, very preliminary study," McKenzie says.
So what is the price tag and when these rail projects will be underway?
"We're still waiting on the transportation bill to be passed to see what the federal investment policy is going to be," McKenzie says.
And when it comes to roads, one mammoth reconstruction project has been underway for several years at the I-430/630 interchange in West Little Rock. It's expected to be completed in 2014. They call it the Big Rock Interchange.
Randy Ort is the spokesman for the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and he says, "We're building flyover ramps, [as] this is going to be a four-level interchange. We will have some lane closures probably in the next eight to 12 weeks. Motorists are going to see tremendous benefits of this."
The interchange will eliminate the traffic light for those traveling east and west. Still with two and a half years to go, it's a major price tag for this major project.
"That's about $125 million worth of work underway at the present time," Ort says.
But that's only one highway project underway in Arkansas. Highway 549 is underway as well, which some day will be named I-49 along the western corridor.
"Designed to link the Gulf Coast with Canada," Ort says.
It's an international project passing through Arkansas in bits and pieces, but no timeframe.
"What we're primarily focused on is the connection between Kansas City, Missouri and Shreveport, Louisiana," says Ort.
Texarkana to Louisiana has already substantial work done on the new I-49, and the same in the Northwest corner from Alma to Rogers.
"Even though we've spent well in excess of a billion dollars to date, it's going to take us about $3 billion more to complete I-49 in Arkansas," Ort says.
And diagonally across the state along Highway 67. The goal is to extend the renovations to the Missouri line. The department is hoping to complete construction in the next four to six years, but now a re-assessment for a direct connection to St. Louis.
"Missouri has had to back off their commitments somewhat," Ort says.
The issue as with all road projects: money.
All highway projects are paid for by 80 percent federal funds with a 20 percent state match.
"We've identified about $23 billion worth of needs that we need to be working on here in Arkansas over the next ten years. Unfortunately over that same period of time we only expect to have about $4 billion in revenue available," Ort says.
The time frame is anyone's guess.