FORT SMITH — Construction barrels on Interstate 540 from Van Buren to Fort Smith, could be removed by Wednesday, according to highway officials.

FORT SMITH — Construction barrels on Interstate 540 from Van Buren to Fort Smith, could be removed by Wednesday, according to highway officials.


The Arkansas Highway Department this week will test the concrete on pothole patchwork on the Arkansas River Bridge. If the concrete is strong enough, crews will begin removing the barrels on southbound lanes of the interstate, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department District 4 Engineer Chad Adams said.


"Assuming that the concrete reaches the minimum strength required on the southbound River Bridge, we could open traffic on that side by Wednesday," Adams said.


The patchwork on the bridge is the last major item to be completed before opening all lanes to traffic. Last week, crews completed work on the northbound River Bridge, and opened all lanes on that side.


Adams said that if the concrete reached the strength requirement, the construction barrels would be removed during the day, outside of the rush hour drive-time.


Adams said there are still some items to be completed that could require temporary lane and shoulder closures, such as streetlight replacement, but that the work could be completed during the day.


Construction began in January 2013 on the 7½-mile, $78.8 million project, which includes "rubblizing" and repaving the road, replacing or modifying 13 bridges, and installing sign support structures on I-540 at Fort Smith. The project is being completed by Kiewit Infrastructure.


It is part of Arkansas’ Interstate Rehabilitation Program. The rehabilitation project received voter approval in November 2011 and is part of the 2011 Interstate Rehabilitation Project, which is set to rehabilitate or replace 455 miles of the 600 miles of Arkansas interstate by the year 2027.


Adams advised that although the majority of the work will be completed, the area will still be a construction zone until all work is completed, and encouraged drivers to continue to use caution.


"The workers will still be out there," Adams said. "Despite the fact that we look like we’re finished, we do still have construction workers on the ground and we ask the motorists to continue to be on lookout and be cautious of their activity."