Interstate 540 (Arkansas)

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Interstate 540 marker

Interstate 540
Route information
Maintained by AHTD
Length: 80.72 mi[1] (129.91 km)
Existed: 1965 – present
Major junctions
South end: US 271 / Hwy. 253 near Fort Smith
North end: US 71 / US 71B in Bentonville
Counties: Sebastian, Crawford, Washington, Benton
Highway system
I-530 Hwy. 549

Interstate 540 (I-540) is a long freeway spur route of Interstate 40 in the US state of Arkansas linking Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville. The total length is 80.72 miles (129.91 km).[1] At first, Interstate 540 was a short spur connecting Fort Smith and Van Buren to I-40 as one of the original five Arkansas Interstates.[2] The route ran just over 14 miles (23 km) to US 271 near the Oklahoma state line.[3] The growing Northwest Arkansas area and the University of Arkansas needed an Interstate connection to Little Rock, and through traffic north to Kansas City had also outgrown the winding US 71 north from I-40. The route was extended north to Mountainburg in the late 1990s on an all-new alignment, with the route being completed to Bella Vista in January 1999.[4] The Northwest Arkansas segment is proposed to become part of an expanded Interstate 49.[5]

Route description[edit]

The older portion of I-540, completed in the 1970s, connects Interstate 40 southwards to the Oklahoma state line, going through Van Buren and Fort Smith. This particular spur starts at Exit 7 on Interstate 40 (being seven miles (11 km) east of the state line with Oklahoma). That point marks mile zero on this spur, in spite of Interstate Highway rules to the contrary. The first three miles (5 km) are through Van Buren, before the bridge over the Arkansas River. The remainder, for a grand total of approximately 15 miles (24 km), travels through Fort Smith. Notably, the mile markers and exit numbers increase from north to south on this spur and they do exactly the opposite (increasing from south to north) on the newer spur (completed in early 1999), connecting Interstate 40 to Bentonville. The mileage numbers and exit signs on the newer spur start at 20, as if the zero point were at the Oklahoma state line (the southwest end of the older spur). AHTD bid a $79 million project in 2013 for I-540 rehabilitation in Fort Smith that includes re-signing the route and renumbering the exits.[6]

Fort Smith route[edit]

Beginning at the I-540 and I-40 junction in Van Buren, the southern portion of the route begins southward along the eastern boundary of Van Buren, with exits numbered sequentially heading south. The segment is largely concurrent with US 71. The first exit along this segment of I-540/US 71 is with US 64 and US 71 Business (US 71B), which leads west into the Van Buren Historic District and east to Alma. Continuing south, I-540/US 71 passes over Highway 162 (Kibler Rd), with no access between the routes. An exit providing access to Highway 59, via Riggs Dr (southbound) or Twin Cir Dr (northbound), is just prior crossing the Arkansas River. After crossing the river, the highways enter Fort Smith and Sebastian County. I-540/US 71 run through a commercial area and has three exits with city collector roads before an exit for Phoenix Ave, which gives access to Fort Smith Regional Airport. However, this exit does not have any access to southbound I-540/US 71.

Now turning toward the southwest, I-540/US 71 have exits with Highway 45 (Greenwood Rd) and Highway 255 (Zero St). Following these intersections, US 71 departs I-540 southbound toward Texarkana, with US 71B terminating at the parent route at the exit. I-540 begins to pass through a residential area before its final exit at US 271 and Highway 253. Following this exit, the roadway continues but ceases to be I-540, becoming US 271 and entering Oklahoma.


U.S. Route 71 is concurrent with Interstate 540 in Northwest Arkansas.
Approaching the Bobby Hopper Tunnel southbound on Interstate 540.

The Interstate spurs both opened in phases. According to a 1970 road map of Fort Smith,[citation needed] exits 2-11 (Van Buren through the Zero Street exit) were opened, with later exits (12-14) and the roadway itself still under construction. Portions of the roadway that became I-540 around Fayetteville were built in the early 1970s, but upgraded and extended in the mid-1990s. The highway around Fayetteville originally received US 71 signage until the complete I-540 spur was opened.

The newer portion of I-540 was completed in the late 1990s and was opened to Mountainburg as AR 540. On January 8, 1999 the road was fully opened to traffic and was re-designated I-540 and also designated the "John Paul Hammerschmidt Highway" in honor of a former U.S. Representative from Arkansas.[7] Having been planned since the early 1970s, it created a bypass for the older US Highway 71. It starts at I-40 Exit 12 (12 miles east of the Oklahoma state line, or one mile (1.6 km) west of Alma, Arkansas) and continues for over 65 miles (105 km), through Crawford County, Arkansas, Washington County, Arkansas and Benton County, Arkansas. Just north of the Crawford-Washington County line is the Bobby Hopper Tunnel, the only large highway tunnel in Arkansas; its namesake (from Springdale) was the chairman of the Arkansas Highway Commission during its construction. Notable cities along the route are Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville. From I-40 north to Fayetteville, I-540 runs roughly parallel to Highway 71. Just south of Fayetteville, I-540 combines with Highways 71 and 62, forming the major expressway through the Northwest Arkansas metro area (Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville). I-540 ends when Highway 62 exits just inside Bentonville; the expressway continues as Highway 71 to just north of Bentonville, where it then becomes the main street of Bella Vista several miles further to the Missouri border. US 71 (and US 62) are unsigned on the portions that are concurrent with I-540.

Two bridges carry I-540 over a valley in the Boston Mountains

The state of Arkansas originally asked AASHTO to allow the Interstate segment between Fort Smith and Bentonville to be named Interstate 49, to emphasize plans to extend the route from Shreveport, Louisiana through Arkansas to Kansas City, Missouri.[8] AASHTO refused, and the route opened in 1999 as a northern extension of I-540.[9] AHTD conducted a feasibility study of adding an interchange at Highway 162 in Van Buren in 1991, with the results adopted by the Arkansas State Highway Commission in 1992.[10] The Arkansas State Highway Commission (ASHC) studied a designation for I-540 between Mountainburg and Fayetteville as an Arkansas Scenic Byway in a meeting on November 17, 1998. One of the requirements of designation is "an active organization composed of various private and governmental groups, businesses, and agencies who are interested in preservation, enhancement, marketing, and development of the route’s scenic, cultural, recreational, and historic qualities,". The ASHC deemed that since the highway was a new location route, it did not have sufficient businesses to satisfy the requirement, so the ASHC deemed itself a partner organization and proceeded with a designation study.[11] The route was added to the scenic byway system the following year.[12]

Another notable fact about I-540 in Arkansas is that the original I-540 spur running from I-540 to Oklahoma through Fort Smith was originally signed east–west, but with the construction of the new spur that runs north through Northwest Arkansas to Missouri the entire I-540 was resigned as a north–south road. It is one of the few that has changed this way.


The Bella Vista Bypass is scheduled to start two portions of the project; Arkansas 72 in Bella Vista to Interstate 49/US-71 in Pineville and Arkansas 72 in Bella Vista to Interstate 540/US-71 in Bentonville.

Exit list[edit]

County Location Mile[1] km Exit Destinations Notes
Oklahoma–Arkansas state line 0.00 0.00 I-540 ends
US-271 / SH-9 continue west into Oklahoma
Sebastian   14 US 271 north / Hwy. 253 south
Fort Smith 13 Jenny Lind Road
12 US 71 south – Texarkana To Interstate 49;South end of U.S. 71 concurrency
11 Hwy. 255 (Zero Street)
10 Hwy. 45 (Greenwood Road), Phoenix Avenue
9 Airport Sign.svg Phoenix Avenue east, Leigh Avenue to Fort Smith Regional Airport No southbound entrance
8 Hwy. 22 (Rogers Avenue) Signed as exits 8A (east) and 8B (west) southbound
6 Grand Avenue
5 Kelley Highway
SebastianCrawford Fort SmithVan Buren 11.24–
Bridge over the Arkansas River
Crawford Van Buren 11.92 19.18 3 Hwy. 59 – Van Buren
14.20 22.85 2 US 64 – Van Buren Signed as exits 2A (east) and 2B (west)
14.71 23.67 15 I-40 west – Oklahoma City, OK South end of I-40 concurrency, I-40 exit 7
  19.23 30.95 20 I-40 east / US 71 north – Little Rock, Alma North end of I-40/U.S. 71 concurrency, I-40 exit 12
Alma 20.31 32.69 21 Collum Lane Future I-49 Between exits 21 and 93
  23.67 38.09 24 Hwy. 282 – Rudy
  29.10 46.83 29 Hwy. 282 – Mountainburg
  33.53 53.96 34 Hwy. 282 – Chester
Washington   41.14–
Bobby Hopper Tunnel
  44.99 72.40 45 Hwy. 74 – Winslow
West Fork 52.78 84.94 53 Hwy. 170 – West Fork
Greenland 57.88 93.15 58 Greenland
Fayetteville 60.50 97.37 60 US 71 (Fulbright Expressway) / Hwy. 112 (Razorback Road) / Hwy. 265 (Cato Springs Road) South end of U.S. 71 concurrency, northbound access to U.S. 71 and southbound access from U.S. 71 via Hwy. 112, northbound access from Hwy. 112 or Hwy. 265 via U.S. 71
61.98 99.75 62 US 62 west / Hwy. 180 east (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) South end of U.S. 62/Hwy. 16 concurrency
63.79 102.66 64 Hwy. 16 west / Hwy. 112S (Wedington Drive) North end of Hwy. 16 concurrency
65 Porter Road
66.01 106.23 66 Hwy. 112 (Garland Avenue)
66.48 106.99 67 US 71B – Fayetteville Business District
Johnson 68.93 110.93 69 Johnson Mill Boulevard
Springdale 70 Don Tyson Parkway Proposed Interchange with Future I-49
71.50 115.07 72 US 412 (Sunset Avenue)
72.91 117.34 73 Elm Springs Road
Benton   76 Wagon Wheel Road
Lowell 78 Hwy. 264 (W Monroe Avenue)
Rogers 81 Pleasant Grove Road
82 Promenade Boulevard
83 Pinnacle Hills Pkwy
Bentonville 85 US 71B (SE Walton Boulevard) / Hwy. 12 west / W Walnut Street South end of Hwy. 12 concurrency
86 US 62 east / Hwy. 12 west (SE 14th Street) / Hwy. 102 (Hudson Road) North end of U.S. 62/Hwy. 12 concurrency
88 Hwy. 72 east (Central Avenue)
93 US 71B (Walton Boulevard) Proposed Interchange with Future I-49
I-540 ends
US 71 continues north
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Arkansas Highway 540[edit]

Highway 540
Location: Crawford County
Length: 12 mi (19.3 km)
Existed: June 7, 1995[13]–present

Highway 540 (AR 540, Ark. 540, and Hwy. 540) was a temporary designation for what would later become Interstate 540 between Alma and Mountainburg in the U.S. state of Arkansas. Traveling a distance of approximately 12 miles,[citation needed] its southern terminus was at Interstate 40 west of Alma and its northern terminus at US 71 in Mountainburg.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Planning and Research Division (2010). "Arkansas Road Log Database" (Database) (in English). Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ "The Beginning of the Mack-Blackwell Years". Historical review: Arkansas State Highway Commission and Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, 1913-1992. Little Rock, Arkansas: Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. November 1992. p. 89. 
  3. ^ Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (TIFF). 1988 Highway Map of Arkansas (Map). Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  4. ^ "The 90s". Historical review volume two: Arkansas State Highway Commission and Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, 1913-2003. Little Rock, Arkansas: Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. April 2004. 
  5. ^ "Interstate 540 Arkansas". August 17, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  6. ^ Mitchell, Aric (2013-01-07). "I-540 in Fort Smith, Van Buren set for $78 million rehab". The City Wire. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  7. ^ USDOT. Secretary Slater Joins in Dedication Of Final Segment of Arkansas’ I-540 The Crittenden Automotive Library. URL accessed May 2, 2009.
  8. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting" (PDF). Arkansas State Highway Commission. January 22, 1991. p. 868. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting" (PDF). Arkansas State Highway Commission. August 6, 1997. p. 960. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting" (PDF). Arkansas State Highway Commission. January 22, 1991. p. 199. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting" (PDF). Arkansas State Highway Commission. November 17, 1998. p. 1205. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting" (PDF). Arkansas State Highway Commission. November 17, 1999. p. 1411. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Minutes of the Meeting" (PDF). Arkansas State Highway Commission]. June 7, 1995. p. 647-648. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing