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UPDATE: Both lanes of I-40 in East Arkansas now closed

An aerial photo shows water covering the westbound lane of Interstate 40 on the approach to the White River Bridge near Hazen, Ark. A concrete barrier between lanes is holding the water off the eastbound lanes. (Associated Press: DANNY JOHNSTON)

The Trucker Staff

5/5/2011

DES ARC, Ark. — The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Thursday shortly after 9 p.m. that both lanes of Interstate 40 between Hazen, Ark., and Brinkley, Ark., were now closed because of flooding on the White River.

The flooding is occuring primarily near Exit 202, which is just east of the White River bridge.

I-40 is a major trucking corridor, and the closing of the road will doubtless disrupt commerce for several days.

The AHTD closed the westbound lane Wednesday afternoon. Spokesman Glenn Bolick said at that time the department felt the eastbound lanes would eventually have to be closed.

When the water began to move onto the westbound lanes Wednesday, a concrete barrier that divides the lanes of I-40 on both sides of the White River bridge protected the eastbound lanes, but the photo above shows the water nearing the eastbound lanes on the south side of the roadway even at that time.

Westbound traffic is being forced to detour at Brinkleysome 14 miles east of Exit 202. That traffic is being sent north on Highway 49 north to Fair Oaks, then Highway 64 west to Bald Knob and then Highway 67 south to Little Rock, a distance of some 110 miles.

However, a trucker responding to a posting on Facebook suggested that truckers entering Arkansas from Tennessee take Interstate 55 north a short distance to U.S. Highway 64 and take Highway 64 to Bald Knob. “It's much easier,“ she said.

Eastbound exit at Hazen and be directed to Highway 63 to Stuttgart, Highway 165 to DeWitt, Highway 1 to Marvell. At Marvell, motorists can take Highway 49 north to Brinkley, Highway 1 to Forrest City or Highway 49 to Helena, another detour of some 110 miles. There appears to be absolutely no alternate route possibilities for eastbound traffic.

As for the movement of traffic, one motorist reported to The Trucker on Facebook Thursday afternoon that it took her traveling party three hours to go from Brinkley, Ark., some 25 miles north to U.S. Highway 64. 

Because of the heavy amount of traffic traveling south on 67-167 into North Little Rock to reconnect with I-40, some motorists are suggesting that if you are traveling to Conway or points west on I-40, that you take U.S. 64 west at Searcy, which will connect with I-40 at Conway.

The detour was causing a huge traffic jam early Thursday morning, according to at least one trucker, who at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday posted on The Trucker Facebook page that he was sitting at Exit 220 and there was a 20 mile backup and traffic was not moving at all.

It is impossible to project when lanes will reopen, AHTD said.

For more information on flooded highways visit www.arkansashighways.com and go to “Flood Information.”

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at kevinj@thetrucker.com.

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