The Bella Vista bypass is nearly 6.4 miles closer to completion, and the state awaits Missouri on its portion of the bypass before Arkansas moves forward on its final segments of the project.
On Wednesday (May 10), city, state and federal officials gathered to celebrate the completion of a $52.7 million segment of the bypass, between Highway 71B and Highway 72 South in Benton County. The bypass, designated as state Highway 549, will eventually become a part of Interstate 49 after other projects are completed in coordination with the Missouri Department of Transportation.
“This highway is the highway of the future,” said Dick Trammel, chairman of the Arkansas Highway Commission.
Crews with Kolb Grading are wrapping up pavement work this week, and the road should open to traffic next week, said Scott Bennett, director of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. Once completed, the bypass work in Arkansas will be finished until Missouri starts its nearly 4-mile portion of the project. Initially, the road will be two lanes, but the plan is for it to be four lanes. The highway department has purchased the right of way to build the road to four lanes, Bennett said.
The highway department has spent $130 million and completed 5.5 miles of the bypass so far, and with the completion of this segment of the bypass, a total of 12 miles will be completed. Along with the planned expansion to four lanes, the other Arkansas projects on the bypass include a single-point urban interchange at Highway 71 in north Bentonville. This type of interchange is also planned for an existing interchange on I-49, spanning Bentonville and Rogers.
A two-lane roundabout will allow motorists to access the bypass when it opens next week. Including the planned interchange, a 2.5-mile segment of the bypass will be built to connect to Missouri’s portion of the bypass, when completed. The state has $120 million set aside to complete the Arkansas projects, Bennett said.
“The money is set aside to do our part,” Trammel said. “We’re ready to work with Missouri to finish this all the way to Pineville, Mo.”
Trammel thanked Arkansas residents for voting for the half-cent sales tax to fund this project as part of the $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program. U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said the residents understand the immediate needs and can’t wait on the federal government’s schedule.
“Your congressional delegation is doing its part,” said Womack said, who represents the Third Congressional District of Arkansas. “This project is indeed about jobs. It’s also about safety and quality of life.”
Womack looks forward to when Interstate 49 allows for an “uninterrupted flow of traffic” through the district.
“You’re standing on an investment,” Bennett said to attendees celebrating the road work. “It’s an investment in the future. This is an investment in economic development.”