The city of Bentonville is seeking feedback on a $37.2 million project to extend Northeast J Street to Interstate 49. Preliminary plans show the 1.1-mile project will include an interchange similar to the one at I-49 and Central Avenue (Arkansas Highway 72).
The city is working with Garver on project design and will host a virtual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 17). Meeting attendees can ask staff about the project. Comments also are being accepted online until March 4. Link here for project details.
Northeast J Street will be widened to four lanes and be extended to I-49 between Tiger Boulevard and the interstate.
Dennis Birge, transportation director for the city of Bentonville, said the project was included in the city’s master street plan in 2007, but the money to complete the project wasn’t available then. Since then, the city has worked with Garver to update street project priorities to meet growth projections for the next 20 years. The city is expected to exceed a population of 100,000 by 2040.
Garver identified the extension of Northeast J Street as a top priority. In 2021, Bentonville voters approved a bond issue that includes $173.5 million in street projects. The extension of Northeast J Street is expected to be the largest street project in the bond issue.
Birge cited the relocation of the Walmart home office along J Street and the proximity to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art as factors supporting the project need. He also pointed to the congestion of existing highways that connect to I-49, including Central Avenue and Arkansas Highway 102.
“We feel like the need for an additional connection to I-49 or inlet or outlet to I-49 was needed,” he said. “By the time we applied some growth factors to get us out to a 2040 traffic count, we felt like this would be needed.”
The virtual meeting will be the first look at the conceptual design. According to the plans, Northeast J Street, which runs between Allencroft and Chapel Hill subdivisions, will be widened to four lanes with a center median. Side paths and sidewalks will be included. The street will be extended until intersecting with I-49 south of Slaughter Pen Road. Two bridges will be needed for the project.
Birge noted the street will be narrowed to fit between the subdivisions and doesn’t anticipate any homes being affected. However, fences might need to be moved and yards adjusted to make way for the street. He added that the design is preliminary, and the city is working to determine exactly where the street will run before seeking environmental approval.
Design and permitting are expected to be completed over three to five years. The project will need approval from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration as it will intersect with I-49.
Birge said the project was estimated to cost $37.2 million, but he expects it will be more since the estimate was given in late 2020. A better estimate is expected to be provided during the design. The city will seek state or federal grant money to pay for the project, Birge said.