CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) -- We've got great news for all of you Conway commuters. The southern interchange is officially open as of Wednesday!
Baker Wills Parkway should, hopefully, alleviate a lot of traffic congestion in the area. It was an idea birthed in 1994 for Conway under Mayor David Kinley and his city council. Now officially known as exit 132, Little Rock, Maumelle, and even Mayflower commuters won't have to drive bumper to bumper all the way into Conway.
"I have a buddy whose wife commutes to Little Rock every day. He's been on me for the last week, asking when are going to open. They’re both really excited,” said Mayor Bart Castleberry.
For the first time in history, getting to Conway from Little Rock is faster than ever before.
“This is a $36 million-dollar project,” said CEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, Brad Lacy.
The new Baker Wills Parkway puts Conway residents within 20 miles of the I-430 Cantrell Interchange in West Little Rock.
“Around 2009 was where the rubber met the road,” Lacy added.
This is a 20 plus year idea for Faulkner County.
"It seems like a long time coming in some ways, but in other ways it seems like it was just yesterday that we began working on this,” said Robbie Wills, former Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives.
It’s a positive for the city and a bonus for its residents. Exit 132 was created to assist with ongoing traffic concerns, but that's not all.
“It was really targeted at helping to create jobs in this part of the state and having better access to the interstate for Conway and Faulkner County,” Wills said.
Some may ask, why add more highways to an area that already has so much construction going on? The community’s continued economic development and expansion is unstoppable.
“We see no end to our growth, we're investing in infrastructure projects. And there was significant public investment on the city side,” said Lacy.
During the planning phase, the city held several public input meetings.
“The biggest complaints I hear about Conway and our traffic is the volume of traffic, and of course our streets in general,” Castleberry said.
There were four routes to choose from and this one was selected.
"People who live in Little Rock, and work in Conway in our Technology Park, will be able to get to and from work quicker,” said Wills.
Mayor Castleberry said there should be some other traffic relief areas opening within the next 90 days. Lots of residents are already expressing excitement about this new interchange on social media. Some hassles are well worth the wait.