ArDOT to release findings on proposed $250M highway west of I-49

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 2,035 views 

The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) will host two meetings in June to discuss the preliminary findings of a proposed north-south highway study in Benton and Washington counties, according to a May 25 (Thursday) news release. ArDOT previously estimated the new highway might cost up to $250 million to build.

The meetings on the Western North-South Connector Study will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. June 6 at Lakeview Baptist Church, 1351 E. Lowell Ave., in Cave Springs, and from 4 to 7 p.m. June 7 at Centerton Community Center, 290 N. Main St., in Centerton. The content will be identical at the meetings.

Link here for meeting materials and a comment form that will be available online beginning June 6. Once the form becomes available, comments will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. July 6.

According to the Arkansas Highway Commission’s January 2019 minute order, Northwest Arkansas officials suggested that a highway west of Interstate 49 and near Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill could increase regional mobility. The proposed highway would connect Highway 612, or the Springdale Northern Bypass, to the Bella Vista Bypass, which is now part of I-49. The order directed ArDOT to complete a feasibility study and needs assessment for the proposed highway.

In the summer 2020, ArDOT hosted a public meeting on the proposed north-south connector, and 84% of respondents said it was necessary. Some of their concerns included a lack of highway infrastructure to support regional growth, a lack of direct north-south routes within the region, existing traffic congestion and indirect access to XNA.

ArDOT proposed multiple north-south routes spanning from I-49 near Hiwasse to the south of XNA and from I-49 near Hiwasse to U.S. Highway 412 west of Tontitown. ArDOT documents show the latter route to be further west of XNA and Centerton. Cost estimates ranged from $179.4 million for the previous and $249.2 million for the latter. No money has been identified for the proposed project.

According to ArDOT, the new route might be either a two or four-lane highway. It’s expected to improve connectivity in western Benton County, mobility by providing an alternate route, XNA access and resiliency of the regional transportation system.

Asked about the project’s timeline, Dave Parker, public information officer for ArDOT, said “there is no timeline for this project. We are doing a study to see if it’s feasible. If it is deemed feasible, then we will look to start securing funding and then decide where to start.”