By Michael Tilley, The City Wire
Apr 10, 2009
The history of Bill Clinton dancing down Garrison Avenue in Fort Smith may offer a lesson in how to best seek the funding and construction of Interstate 49.
Congress is expected during this session to draft a new federal highway bill that would dictate what transportation projects get funded and how much funding they receive.
I-49 — which stretches from Texarkana, up through Dequeen, Mena and Waldron, into Fort Smith and on through Northwest Arkansas — would be a tremendous economic development engine for all of Arkansas. All that stands in the way of this interstate reality is several small segments at the Arkansas-Louisiana and Arkansas Missouri borders and a large 185-mile segment between Texarkana and Fort Smith that posts a price tag of around $3 billion.
The interstate project did receive a boost from the federal stimulus bill approved in early March. Arkansas officials committed to I-49 about $71.6 million of $335.83 million in federal stimulus highway money, and are teaming with Missouri highway officials to seek an additional $250 million for I-49.
TOO LATE FOR GRASSROOTS
David Olive says it’s very “late in the game” for communities in western Arkansas to form and push a grassroots effort to influence the federal highway bill.
But Olive, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson and a government relations and public affairs consultant now based in Washington, D.C., has an approach that could help the I-49 cause by making its funding a key issue in the re-election of U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.
Recent poll numbers suggest that Lincoln, up for re-election in the 2010 Congressional mid-term elections, is vulnerable if a strong Republican candidate emerges. That “vulnerability” could be the primary driver in gaining funding for I-49.
Olive prefaces his approach with a reminder about the long-ago bet between Times Record editor Jack Moseley and Gov. Bill Clinton. Moseley bet Clinton that if the governor carried Sebastian County, Moseley would dance with Bill and Hillary down Garrison Avenue. Bill did and they danced.
Read the whole story here.