Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) has changed its approach toward building an access road to the Highfill airport.
Airport officials will look to the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) to take the lead on the environmental study. The state agency has hired engineering firm Garver to complete the study, and it is expected to be completed over the next two to three years before a decision on the road is determined, said Aaron Burkes, CEO and executive director for XNA.
The plan is for the road to be more than what’s been described as a long driveway to the airport, but it should also serve as a road for those who aren’t going to the airport. How the road would be paid for is uncertain as the airport has restrictions on how the federal money it receives is spent, but the costs might be shared between ArDOT and XNA, Burkes said. The road is expected to be four lanes and might be completed in phases, such as the Bella Vista Bypass, with it being two lanes and ultimately expanded to four lanes.
The airport previously completed a study on the road, but that was before the first segment of the U.S. Highway 412 bypass was completed, between Arkansas Highway 112 north of Elm Springs and Interstate 49 in Lowell. The new study will include the impact of the new highway segment, known as Arkansas Highway 612.
The access road was planned to run south from XNA for about 3 miles to where it would intersect with a future segment of Highway 612. XNA in spring 2018 established a task force to advance the access road project. Mike Johnson, a member of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority, is leading the task force.
XNA also completed a land purchase last month, spending $451,500 to buy 43 acres near its south entrance along Arkansas Highway 264.
Burkes said the airport purchased the land as part of its long-range plan for growth. Additionally, the airport is under contract to purchase two adjacent lots, each about 2 acres, also as part of the plan.
The airport over the past decade has purchased about four or five pieces of land along the east side of the airport in line with the plan, which shows a second runway on the airport’s east side and an access road.