BENTONVILLE -- Missouri highway officials Wednesday approved a plan to complete their remaining portion of the Bella Vista Bypass, also known as the I-49 Missouri/Arkansas Connector.
"The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, at its meeting on Wednesday, April 1, awarded a project to construct the final five miles of I-49 in Missouri between Pineville and the Missouri/Arkansas state line in McDonald County," the Missouri Department of Transportation said in a press release Thursday.
The project was awarded to Emery Sapp & Sons Inc., of Columbia, Mo., for $58.7 million. Construction is expected to begin in late April or early May with completion by Sept. 30, 2021. The company has built several other portions of Interstate 49 and the bypass.
A new interchange will built at Missouri Route 90 west of Jane. The new road will be a four-lane, limited access highway built to interstate standards.
The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission got a $25 million federal grant in December 2018 and gave the money to Missouri in order to complete I-49. The I-49 Missouri project is in the regional planning commission's planning area.
The goal is for Arkansas and Missouri to each build their portions of the road and then meet at the state line in late 2021, or early 2022 at the latest, according to regional planners. The completed 19-mile connector will allow motorists to circumvent Bella Vista to the west and south on new four-lane interstate.
The project has been discussed for 25 or 30 years and is considered a priority by Northwest Arkansas and federal transportation officials. The Northwest Arkansas Council, a group of area civic and business leaders, prioritized completion of the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector, describing it as one of the region's most important projects.
A lack of money for the missing section had been delaying completion of the 278-mile section of interstate between Fort Smith and Kansas City, Mo. Bella Vista is now the only stretch where traffic has to leave I-49, on to U.S. 71, to continue traveling north or south. Allowing motorists to bypass Bella Vista, and its multiple traffic signals, should reduce travel times and improve safety, planners have said.
Arkansas officials broke ground in October on two sections needed to fill missing links on the Arkansas side.
The two projects are the last 2.5 miles from Hiwasse to the state line and a single-point urban interchange to replace the roundabout at I-49 and U.S. 71 in north Bentonville where the new highway heads west. The estimated cost of the projects is just more than $100 million.
NW News on 04/03/2020