Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill announced Wednesday (June 15) the preferred route for the proposed connector road will have no significant impact on the environment. The cost estimate for the 3.4-mile road project is $94 million, according to federal documents.
On June 14, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the fully-controlled access highway that would run from a future segment of Arkansas Highway 612, west of Arkansas Highway 112, to Arkansas Highway 264, at the south entrance of XNA. The connector road would include an interchange at Highway 612, which is also referred to as the U.S. Highway 412 bypass.
“This approved FONSI is a monumental moment for connectivity in Northwest Arkansas,” said Aaron Burkes, CEO of XNA. “Continued progress on this new road is absolutely necessary for a safer and more reliable route to the airport for XNA passengers.”
According to a news release, the environmental portion of the project has been completed with the approval of the FONSI. The next steps are to acquire the right-of-way and the utility relocation for the project. That’s expected to take up to 18 months. The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) hired Garver to complete the project design, which should be completed by December.
“The approval of the FONSI for the XNA connector is a major milestone for this important project that has taken many years to accomplish,” ArDOT Director Lorie Tudor said. “ArDOT is very grateful for the partnership and collaboration with XNA and FHWA that was crucial in getting to this point. We can now move forward with implementing the final phases of project development so that construction can begin.”
Philip Taldo, who’s a member of the XNA board and Arkansas Highway Commission, said ArDOT and XNA “worked hand in hand to move this project forward.”
“This is a major hurdle for making the XNA connector road a reality,” Taldo said. “It is an excellent example of what is possible when government entities partner on a major project that is beneficial to the public.”
XNA board member Mike Johnson previously said land acquisition for the connector road might start this year with construction potentially starting in 2023. The road might be completed in 2025 or 2026.
“There are quite a few individuals who should be proud of the work that was put into this critical NEPA process completion,” Johnson said. “We are grateful to ArDOT, to NWA Regional Planning Commission, to our several professional partners and most especially our equally dedicated staff members who got this FONSI to the finish line and contributed to the continued, forward progress of a much-needed, new XNA access road in Northwest Arkansas.”
The connector road was listed in the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission’s 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan and its 2021-2024 Transportation Improvement Program.
“The NWARPC is excited to see the environmental phase of the project approved which brings it one step closer to construction,” said Tim Conklin, assistant director of the commission. “The XNA access road is a critical part of the region’s transportation network.”