Interstate 555 overlays U.S. 63 along a freeway stretching northwest from I-55 at Turrell to AR 91 on the west side of Jonesboro. A mostly rural route, I-555 serves the small cities of Gilmore, Tyronza, Marked Tree and Bay as it joins the Memphis area with Trumann and Jonesboro.
Sign fabrication was underway for I-555 by December 2015 while the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD), predecessor to the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) awaited approved from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for the Interstate highway. Installation on the new assemblies was expected to take up to four weeks.4 The designation became official at a dedication ceremony held at St. Bernards Auditorium in Jonesboro on March 11, 2016.5
ArDOT applied for a 4.81-mile extension of I-555 from U.S. 49 and Highway 18 (Southwest Drive) north to Highway 91 in Spring 2016. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering approved the extension over the remainder of the U.S. 63 freeway through Jonesboro on May 24, 2016.6
U.S. 63 was established as High Priority Corridor 39 in 1998.1 Until 1999, U.S. 63 ended at Turrell and Interstate 55. A southward extension lengthened the route to I-40 at West Memphis, Hazen and I-20 at Ruston, Louisiana.
AHTD submitted an application to the AASHTO for the establishment of Interstate 555 along U.S. 63 from I-55 north of Marion to AR 91 in Jonesboro on April 16, 1999. The Route Numbering Subcommittee however disapproved the designation because significant portions of the expressway did not meet Interstate standards and would not for some time. AHTD applied to AASHTO for I-555 again and was subsequently granted Future Interstate status for the route December 9, 2000.
As of December 2003, 26 miles of Future I-555 between Jonesboro and Payneway were built to Interstate standards with 18 miles remaining. Ground breaking for a new overpass at AR 149 in Poinsett County followed as part of a $100 million federally funded project to continue Interstate upgrades along U.S. 63. Interchanges were constructed in 2004 at AR 118 and AR 135 near the city of Tyronza. Succeeding work upgraded the exchange between I-55 and U.S. 63 to a freeway-to-freeway connection.1
Interstate 555 remained unsigned due to a portion of U.S. 63 at Sunken Lands. This section was not fully controlled access, with farm equipment from adjacent private land using the roadway. Upgrading these two stretches of U.S. 63 to Interstate standards, and building companion frontage roads at Marked Tree and just to the west, was estimated to cost $50 million.2 This resulted in the farm vehicle exemption language included by Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) federal highway authorization bill of December 2015.3
Signed for nearly 15 years as Future I-555, the Arkansas State Highway Commission voted to designate 44 miles of U.S. 63 as Interstate 555 on December 2, 2015. Language in the FAST bill signed by President Obama on December 4, 2015, included the exemption for building a two-lane frontage road across the St. Francis River floodway for farm vehicles. This exemption saved ArDOT $33 million in costs estimated for building the road required to accommodate farm vehicles. Without the exemption, as farm vehicles are prohibited otherwise from using an Interstate highway, farmers would otherwise be forced to make a 90-mile detour to circumvent U.S. 63 / I-555.3 Signs referencing the farm equipment usage went up on I-555 on January 28, 2016.
$250 million in upgrades took place along the U.S. 63 corridor over a 40 year period leading to the redesignation of I-555 from a Future route.3 I-555 remains unposted west from U.S. 49 to Highway 91.