The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission accepted a $25 million federal grant that will pay for the Missouri portion of the Arkansas-Missouri Connector, or Bella Vista Bypass, and agreed to a vision to widen to four lanes an 18-mile segment of Arkansas Highway 112 in Benton and Washington counties.
Members of the commission, which include representatives of cities and counties throughout the region, on Wednesday (Jan. 23) approved the Highway 112 expansion plan and accepted the grant money that will come from the $1.5 billion Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program. The U.S. Department of Transportation notified the commission on Dec. 6 it would receive the grant.
Tim Conklin, transportation programs manager for the commission, explained that Highway 112 would be a divided highway with a raised median and include breaks in the median every one-quarter of a mile. Roundabouts for intersections would be considered to reduce fatal and serious injuries and improve traffic flow.
The highway is listed in the 2019 to 2022 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, Conklin said. Improvements to the highway corridor are expected to cost $37.5 million and the project is set for federal fiscal year 2022, which starts Oct. 1, 2021.
Plans for the project would be approved by eight city councils of the cities in which the project would run through, the commission and the Arkansas Department of Transportation, Conklin said. The plans would be used to identify median breaks and establish standards for driveways.
The $25 million BUILD grant will allow the Missouri Department of Transportation to complete a 4.8-mile segment of Interstate 49 in McDonald County, between Pineville to the state line. The project also will allow $86.6 million in road work to be completed in Arkansas, including a new interchange north of Bentonville and the completion of the Bella Vista Bypass in Arkansas, Conklin said. When the 18.9-mile bypass is completed, it will fill the gap in the missing link in the 270-mile segment of I-49 between I-40 and I-70 in Kansas City, Mo.