The Highway 18 Bypass is now open through Manila. It includes five lanes and spans four miles. Willie Huskey lives in Manila, and is one of the thousands of drivers that travel along Highway 18 to get to Jonesboro.
"I think it's wonderful that they're putting an interstate in," says Huskey. "It's so much faster to get out there and go. Before you couldn't get around or nothing. It was just one highway there, and it was awful. You'd get stopped in traffic, and you couldn't get around. "
Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett is pleased with the progress of the new highway. Bennett describes the bypass as a major artery.
"I think the long-term impact will be safer and more efficient travel," says Bennett. "A better connection between two major communities, and two major highways, Interstate 55 and U.S. 63 and U.S. 67, and Jonesboro, and West of Jonesboro."
The opening of the Higway 18 bypass going through Manila means ArDOT officials are one-step closer to connecting Jonesboro to Blytheville. City officials look forward to it decreasing congestion. And improving the local economy.
"You can leave here today, and basically go to California with a four-lane highway," says Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner. "As long as the highway department can connect us with the world, there are no excuses that we can't market our product, the way it should be marketed."
Willie is optimistic about the changes.
"It helps a lot really," she says. "I figured there'll be more stores go up, and be a lot more things. A lot more buildings go up. And Manila's gonna grow."
There's one final stretch of road construction left to complete in the Highway 18 bypass. It should be open for travelers the latter part of 2020.