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Missouri adds $7M for I-49 connection

by Ron Wood | January 20, 2020 at 2:01 a.m.

SPRINGDALE -- Missouri highway officials are putting another $7 million in the pot to build their portion of the Interstate 49 Bella Vista Bypass from Pineville to the state line.

The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission was asked to amend planning documents to reflect the additional money for the project, which is also known as the I-49 Missouri/Arkansas Connector. The project is within regional planning's jurisdiction. A committee Thursday recommended approval of the amendment.

Tim Conklin with regional planning said the change was needed to cover anticipated cost increases for the project, which sat dormant for several years. Missouri plans to open bids on the project in March, he said.

"As MoDOT has gotten closer to letting the project, they have looked at their costs to construct projects and have had discussion with individuals who are constructing other projects and are adjusting their numbers to reflect that," Conklin said. "They're just adjusting those numbers up so when they bid it out, they have enough money."

The goal is for Arkansas and Missouri to build their portions of the highway and meet at the state line in late 2021 or early 2022, Conklin said.

Conklin said Missouri is looking at spending an estimated $70 million to build about 4.8 miles of new road. State and federal money will be used on the project.

Officials in October broke ground on two portions 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 Bentonville where the highway heads west. The estimated cost of the projects is just more than $100 million.

Scott Bennett, director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said recently the state's investment in the Bella Vista Bypass is going to be about $276 million.

Arkansas opened a two-lane section of the bypass between Bentonville and Hiwasse in May 2017. Work on the other two lanes for that section should be done later this year.

A $25 million federal grant was awarded to Regional Planning in December 2018. The commission, in turn, gave the money to Missouri to build the 4.8-mile section that is within its jurisdiction.

The project has been discussed for 25 or 30 years and is considered a priority by Northwest Arkansas and federal transportation officials.

Money for the missing section has been holding up completion of the 278-mile section of interstate between Fort Smith and Kansas City, Mo.

Bella Vista is the only stretch where traffic must leave I-49 to continue traveling north or south. The connector will allow motorists to bypass Bella Vista and its multiple traffic signals, reducing travel times and improving safety, planners have said.

State Desk on 01/20/2020

Print Headline: Missouri adds $7M for I-49 connection

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