The widening work along Interstate 49 in Northwest Arkansas should be completed by the end of summer as work on two I-49 interchange projects continues amidst the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Work to widen the interstate to six lanes in Rogers and Bentonville is expected to be completed in late summer, said Randy Ort, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT).
The widening work is part of an interchange project at Exit 85, spanning Rogers and Bentonville. The overall project is expected to be completed in mid-2021, but the I-49 widening work should be completed this year.
“The full six lanes through that area can open once the bridge work is complete,” Ort said. “Current estimate for that portion of the job is late this summer.”
Asked about any other I-49 widening projects in Northwest Arkansas, he said, “This will be the final segment to open to six lanes. All the rest is open.”
Apac-Central Inc. started work on the $26.9 million interchange project in October 2018. The work includes a single-point urban interchange (SPUI) at Exit 85 along with the widening of Walnut Street, or U.S. Highway 71B, and the interstate there.
In northern Bentonville, the interchange project for the Bella Vista Bypass, or the Missouri-Arkansas Connector, was delayed for about two weeks because of a worker with COVID-19.
“Work is back underway on the Bella Vista Bypass interchange project,” district engineer Steve Lawrence said. “The positive test on that project has resulted in what is going to be a 13-day time extension to the schedule for the contract.”
COVID-19 has not caused any other delays for the Bella Vista Bypass or I-49 projects, he added.
The Exit 85 interchange project had been delayed because of utility relocation work, leading to a revised completion date of mid-2021.
Meanwhile, motorists can expect traffic lane closures or delays along the Bella Vista Bypass and I-49 because of the interchange project at U.S. Highway 71 and the bypass work in Missouri. Weather permitting, the closures on the bypass in Arkansas will be from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Monday (June 15). In Missouri, traffic slowdowns are expected on I-49 near Pineville for up to three weeks because of rock blasting for the bypass.
Emery Sapp & Sons Inc. of Columbia, Mo., is building the new interchange at Highway 71. The company also is building 2.6 miles of the bypass, from Benton County Road 34 to the Missouri state line. The $102.11 million in projects started in fall 2019, and the bypass work was projected to be completed in late 2020 and the interchange in late 2021.
Kolb Grading is completing 8.7 miles on the northbound lanes of the bypass. The $27.5 million project started in January 2018 and should be completed late this year.
In Missouri, Emery Sapp & Sons is building the state’s 5-mile portion of the bypass. Work on the $70.3 million project started in April and is expected to be completed in September 2021.