Proposed Lonoke County road divides neighbors

Local News
January 01 2022 12:00 am

LONOKE COUNTY, Ark. – A proposed Lonoke County connecting road between Cabot and Austin is causing neighbors to speak out, some in support of the new route, others against.

It’s a 2.7-mile route that would connect the new highway 67/167 exit between Cabot and Austin with the end of Omni Farms Road, which currently ends in what Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin calls a “dangerous intersection”. The plan would replace the crossroads with a roundabout and create a new route between the Greystone / Austin area and the freeway.

According to Erwin, the roadway would be a mix of new development and old county roads and would need an estimated acre of land from two homeowners in Austin, including Diana Leamons.

Leamons has lived on her property for 23 years, which includes a sprawling yard she and her dogs play fetch in. Erwin’s proposed new route would end up cutting through her backyard, a nearness to her pups and grandchild that concerns her.

“This way, coming down through our yard, it doesn’t make any sense at all,” Leamons said when asked about the plan. “If you really, truly want to serve the people and you think this will help, go somewhere else. But not through my backyard.”

It’s a sentiment nearby neighbor Charles Blackburn shares. He’s been an outspoken opponent to the route, saying other roadways are already in place that do the same job.

“You look at a map, you draw it up, you do anything you want to do,” Blackburn explained, “and it just makes no sense. It’s actually closer to go the route that we are using right now.”

In addition, he’s concerned with the potential speed of drivers on the roadway and believes the funding should go to improving current roads in Lonoke County instead of building new ones.

But while Blackburn and Leamons are hitting the brakes, others are hitting the road.

For Judge Erwin, the reasoning is simple.

“It’s a health and safety issue,” Erwin explained over the phone, pointing out the intersection of Omni Farms Road and Ed Haymes Road that includes a curved stop. “It will [also] help the problems [of traffic] a lot in the mornings and afternoons on highway 5.”

One driver in the Greystone neighborhood feels the new route would improve traffic and smooth out the drive to the highway.

“I felt comfortable with it,” she said. “It certainly gives us better access into Cabot and to the freeway.”

Another neighbor mentioned how he felt it would make commuting faster and be a more direct route to Highway 67/167.

Regardless, this isn’t something that will be done anytime soon. Judge Erwin said studies are still being done in the area and the project has a bit to go before any gravel is laid.

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