The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved Wednesday (April 1) a $58.7 million project to complete Missouri’s portion of the Bella Vista Bypass or Missouri/Arkansas Connector. Meanwhile, Missouri highway projects remain on schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a district engineer said.
Emery Sapp & Sons Inc. of Columbia, Mo., will complete the nearly 5-mile bypass project, between Pineville, Mo., and the Missouri/Arkansas state line in McDonald County, Mo. Construction is expected to start by late April and should be completed by Sept. 30, 2021.
Steve Campbell, southwest district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said bids for the project were higher than hoped, but work on it should start April 16, if not sooner. The total cost for all aspects of the project, including right-of-way acquisition, design and construction, is $70.3 million.
Asked how the project might be impacted by COVID-19, Campbell said “none of our construction projects have been severely impacted, and all of them remain on schedule. I hope that continues to be the case and eventually applies to this job too. The reality is we don’t know at this point how it’ll impact the contractor’s crews. One positive is that this type of work is outside, so it lends itself very well to be pursued within the guidelines issued by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)”
The project will relocate a four-lane divided highway to the west of existing U.S. Highway 71. The new road will meet interstate standards and can be accessed via interchanges, including a new interchange at Missouri Highway 90, west of Jane, Mo. The project will be partially paid for with a $25 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) federal grant that the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission received in December 2018.
Emery Sapp & Sons Inc. also is completing 2.6 miles of the bypass in Arkansas, from Benton County Road 34 to the state line, and the new interchange at U.S. Highway 71B in northern Bentonville. The $102.11 million in projects started in fall 2019 and should be completed late 2020 and late 2021, respectively.
In January, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission Policy Committee approved a plan from the Missouri Department of Transportation to update the construction costs for Missouri’s portion of the bypass. The project to complete all phases of the project rose by $7 million, from $63 million.
When the bypass projects are completed, they will become part of I-49, which will run 290 miles between Kansas City, Mo., and Fort Smith.