LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas can designate the section of U.S. 67 between North Little Rock and Walnut Ridge as “Future Interstate 57” under recently approved federal legislation.


The authorization was included in the recently- enacted funding bill for the 2017 fiscal year. In a news release Thursday, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said the designation “is an important step to make Arkansas a better-connected state that is open for business.”


“The presence of an official interstate highway is one of the key factors that developers consider when determining where to make major investments, such as building new factories,” Boozman said.


The legislation allows Arkansas to request that any segment of the highway that is built to interstate standards be officially added to the federal interstate system as Interstate 57.


Resolutions declaring support for the I-57 designation have been passed by the Newport Economic Development Commission and chambers of commerce in Bald Knob, Cabot, Jacksonville, Lawrence County, Newport, Sherwood and Searcy.


Scott Bennett, director of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, said in the release, “This is recognition of the tremendous investment the department has made to build U.S. 67 to interstate standards from I-40 to U.S. 412 at Walnut Ridge. Although there is still much work to be done north of U.S. 412, this ‘Future I-57’ designation should open up more possibilities for economic development along this important corridor.”


Arkansas Highway Commission member Alec Farmer said, “This is a prime example of the state and federal delegation working arm in arm for Arkansas citizens. This designation will play a vital role in economic development that will benefit people across state. I thank Sen. Boozman for leading this effort.”