State Police Step Up Patrol Of Interstate 540 Construction Zones
This article was published on Thursday, March 1, 2007 10:37 PM CST in News
By Melissa Sherman

ROGERS --The only wall in a construction worker's office is a concrete barricade to protect them from commuters zooming by at 60 mph or faster.

Rush hour on Interstate 540 is congested, as usual, and thins out during the day, but commuters who exceed the speed limit can pose a danger when construction workers are present, said Sgt. David Hyden, Arkansas State Police.

State Police have stepped up patrols near the Perry Road overpass while crews construct the new pillars, Hyden said.

The work zone speed limit is set at 60 mph through the Pinnacle Hills Promenade construction area from New Hope Road to just slightly north of Pleasant Grove Road. Several drivers have been apprehended for speeding. Some told police they didn't know there was a reduced speed zone or just disregarded the signs, Hyden said.

Ann Johnson leaves her home in Springdale at 7:30 a.m. to travel I-540 to work in Bentonville. Johnson said the problem isn't traffic congestion but rather when commuters come to a "screeching halt" when they see a State Trooper parked on the side of the road.

Johnson said she's fairly new to Arkansas and said troopers could be more effective if they drove up and down the interstate to monitor traffic.

Jared Hicks commutes on I-540 two times a week in the afternoon from his home in Fayetteville to NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. Hicks said the drive takes a little longer than expected but generally "everyone drives the speed limit" and is "courteous" on the road.

Roger McDaniel, division president with Nabholz Construction, said Northwest Excavation workers now wear bright colored vests and reflective markers.

The program was started at the first of the year but McDaniel said it wasn't just in response to the traffic but also to help their crews' visibility on New Hope Road.

Fines for traffic violations will be doubled whenever highway workers are present. Troopers are monitoring any type of traffic violation on I-540 but are paying particular attention to speeding, Hyden said.

"I see them out there," Karen Owen of Fayetteville said of the troopers' presence, "But (they're) not really pulling over very many people."

Owen leaves her home in Fayetteville at 6:30 a.m. to be at work in Bentonville every day.

"It's unreal," Owen said about traffic on I-540. "There's no good time to leave; it's always bad."

New Hope Road construction has been the "worst" area for traffic, not necessarily because of accidents, but rather congestion and delays, said Chief Steve Helms, Rogers Police Department.

Police have helped direct the flow of traffic around Pinnacle Church, Pinnacle Hills Promenade and the John Q. Hammons Convention Center. This weekend, the Rogers Police Department will provide additional officers to help direct traffic for the Northwest Arkansas Home Builders Association's annual Home and Garden Show at the convention center, Helms said.

He added there aren't a lot of commuters speeding in the New Hope Road area because traffic is rather "heavy."

State Police have responded to a few accidents throughout the construction zone. Hyden said the interstate lane shift "kinda messes people up if they aren't paying attention," adding that some drivers drift into the concrete barriers or other vehicles.