Arkansas/Missouri Connector could open in 2022 if commission receives grant

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 805 views 

An 18.9-mile segment of Interstate 49, between Arkansas and Missouri, is expected to be completed in 2021 and could open in 2022 if the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission receives a $32.4 million federal grant for the project, said Tim Conklin, assistant director and transportation programs manager for the commission.

On Sept. 27, the commission agreed to apply for the federal grant to pay for the Arkansas/Missouri Connector. When finished, the connector would complete a 265-mile segment of I-49 between Alma and Kansas City, Mo., a stretch of interstate designated as high priority corridor No. 1 in 1991 and as a future interstate by Congress. The grant money the commission applied for would come from the $1.5 billion Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program.

Conklin has been working with Arkansas Department of Transportation and Missouri Department of Transportation on a tentative schedule as part of the grant.

“If the grant application is successful, it will take approximately one year form the date of notice of grant funds to get the project ready for bid letting in Missouri,” Conklin said. “We will not have a detailed construction schedule as part of this application at this time but are assuming the project can be ready to be let for construction bidding in approximately one year. The grant requires projects move to construction in a short time period.”

Missouri has $18.43 million to complete a 4.8-mile segment of the project in the state but still needs $32.4 million to complete the $50.83 million project. Conklin previously said he received confirmation from Missouri it would build the project if the planning commission were awarded the grant. The money would be given to Missouri to complete the project, which is within the planning commission’s planning area.

“Obviously both states will need coordinate on the construction schedules if we are successful,” Conklin said.

The remaining 14.1 miles of the project in Arkansas is “completely funded,” he said. This includes expanding existing two-lane segments of the project to four lanes and the construction of an interchange in Bella Vista. Right-of-way has been purchased for the entire 18.9-mile project, and environmental studies have been completed.

Conklin said Nov. 2 was the deadline to apply for the grant, and the application was submitted before the deadline.

Jeff Hawkins, executive director for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, previously said he was uncertain when the commission would be notified as to whether it would receive the funding. He estimated it likely would be within three months of the deadline.

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