Posted on January 27, 2020
El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer and El Dorado Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Luther are encouraging residents to attend a public meeting regarding proposed improvements to Highway 82B/Hillsboro on Jan. 30.
The project has been in the works for over 10 years according to a previous News-Times report and a master plan for improvements was approved by the El Dorado City Council last April; the city will be responsible for $3-$4 million of the cost of the project, with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDoT) contributing about $26 million. In October of 2017, the council agreed to adopt and maintain the highway upon completion of the project.
The project will involve widening the highway through El Dorado and adding roundabouts and landscaped medians as well as replacing two bridges, including the Hillsboro viaduct.
In a letter to the editor published in Friday's edition of the News-Times, Smith-Creer said a project with the potential to impact economic and community development as much as the Highway 82 widening, or Hillsboro Greenway, project has not been seen in El Dorado.
Luther echoed her sentiments, saying he has spoken to several people that would potentially invest in land and build businesses along the highway once the project is complete.
“There are developers that are wanting to put businesses out there, but they’re having to wait because of this highway project,” he said. “There are restaurants and family entertainment (businesses). We need family entertainment here.”
Luther said there are also retailers interested in developing along the highway.
“This thing has been dragging on for five years,” he said. “We want the public to come to this meeting and talk about it.”
Some construction on Highway 82 has begun, including a 5-mile bypass into El Dorado and around parts of Magnolia. However, the project also extends into the city limits of El Dorado, down Hillsboro Street, and that work has not yet begun.
The project is funded through a temporary half-percent statewide sales tax that was approved by voters in 2012; it is set to expire in 2023, and ARDoT officials will encourage residents to approve an extension of the tax at the public meeting. Residents will also have the opportunity to view displays of the Arkansas highway system.
Several public meetings have been held through the years regarding the project. Next week’s meeting is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Assembly of God Fellowship Hall, 2225 W. Hillsboro St.
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.