City and state officials and Walmart executives gathered Wednesday (April 24) to celebrate the completion of the Eighth Street interchange project along Interstate 49 in Bentonville. The interchange, adjacent to the Bentonville-based retailer’s David Glass Technology Center, is expected to open in the next 30 days.
The $28.8 million project also included extending Eighth Street from Moberly Lane to I-49. The city of Bentonville is working on a separate project to widen to four lanes a 2-mile segment of Eighth Street, between Moberly Lane and Southwest I Street.
“This is not only going to help our current home office associates travel to and from work and our vendors and suppliers, but also, as you know, we have a huge project planned which will happen very soon which will be a gateway into where our new home office will be,” Michael Lindsey, director of public affairs for Walmart. “It couldn’t happen at a better time.”
When asked about the widening project, Bentonville Mayor Stephanie Orman said the city has completed utility relocations and right-of-way acquisition for the project, but a construction timeline has yet to be set. Orman also noted that the city is working with partners, including Walmart, on the project and expects the work to start this year.
Dennis Birge, transportation engineer for Bentonville, previously said the project, estimated between $13 and $16 million, should be completed in two years once work starts. The existing street will be widened from two lanes to a four-lane boulevard with a median, and a 10-foot-wide trail will be included along the south side of the street.
In March 2017, Crossland Construction Co. started construction on the interchange project and the extension of Eighth Street from Moberly Lane to I-49. Workers built a braided interchange, the first in the state, and the design was required because of its proximity to Arkansas Highway 102 interchange, which is to the south.
Mitchell Archer, district construction engineer for District 9 of the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT), said the project is expected to alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 102.
Highway commissioner Philip Taldo said the project was one of many to keep up with growth across the state and that ArDOT recently completed $310 million of improvements to I-49 in Northwest Arkansas. Taldo also said the projects to complete the Arkansas segment of I-49 leading to Missouri, commonly referred to as the Bella Vista Bypass, are expected to start in July, with work completed in mid-2022.
Asked when the Eighth Street interchange would open, Danny Straessle, public information officer for ArDOT, said the contractor was completing final touches of the project but confirmed it should open within the next 30 days, if not sooner. The project was previously expected to be completed Nov. 3, 2018, and the contractor could face liquidated damages of $750 per day for not completing it on time. When asked about the liquidated damages, Straessle said this would be determined after all the work is completed.