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Missouri has bid in hand for Interstate 49 Bella Vista Bypass work

by Ron Wood | March 24, 2020 at 1:02 a.m.
NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo/SPENCER TIREY Construction is being done on a portion of the Bella Vista Bypass between Miller Church Road and Walton Blvd. in October 2019.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Missouri Department of Transportation officials on Friday opened bids to complete their remaining portion of the Bella Vista Bypass from Pineville to the state line.

The apparent low bid of $58.5 million was submitted by Emery Sapp & Sons of Columbia, Mo. The company has built several other portions of Interstate 49 and the bypass, which regional planners and officials with the Arkansas Department of Transportation now call the Interstate 49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector.

Lane closings set for new interchange work

BENTONVILLE — Construction to build the new Bella Vista Bypass interchange with U.S. 71/North Walton Boulevard in Bentonville requires overnight lane closings for the next couple of weeks, according to Arkansas Department of Transportation officials.

Weather permitting, crews will create temporary traffic detours at the Arkansas 549/Bella Vista Bypass roundabout from Thursday through April 5 to allow for continued construction. Crews will close lanes during overnight hours and flag traffic around the work.

Monday to Friday nights, 8 p.m.-7 a.m.

Saturday nights, 8 p.m.-10 a.m.

Sunday nights, 6 p.m.- 7 a.m.

Traffic will be controlled by signs, flags and police enforcement. Watch for warning signs and safety personnel during the work. The public is advised to be cautious when traveling in the work zone.

Source: Arkansas Department of Transportation

The bid is higher than expected, and Missouri officials are discussing how to make up the difference. Missouri added another $7 million to the project in January.

Nothing is official until the Missouri Highway Commission awards the bid April 1, according to Craig Switzer, an engineer and project manager for the Missouri agency. If the bid is awarded as planned, Switzer said construction could be expected to start in late April to early May.

Missouri's timeline tentatively calls for the road to be finished by Sept. 30, 2021, according to Switzer. No disruption of the timeline is anticipated, but Missouri is monitoring the covid-19 situation.

A $25 million federal grant was awarded to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission in December 2018. The commission, in turn, gave the money to Missouri to build its 4.8-mile section to complete I-49. The I-49 Missouri project is in the commission's planning area.

Tim Conklin at Regional Planning said, "This project is the last piece of the puzzle to complete I-49 between Arkansas and Missouri. We are hopeful that everything proceeds on schedule as each state completes projects to the state line."

The goal is for Arkansas and Missouri to build their portions of the road and meet at the state line in late 2021 or early 2022, according to Conklin. When completed, the 19-mile connector will allow motorists to go around Bella Vista to the west and south on a 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 prioritized completion of the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector, describing it as one of the region's most important projects.

Money for the missing section had 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.

Officials in October broke ground on two parts 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.

Scott Bennett, former 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. Bennett retired from his position Friday.

Arkansas has paid for major portions of the connector with funding from the half-cent sales tax approved by statewide voters in 2012. Voters will be asked in November to make permanent that 10-year sales tax, which is set to expire in 2023.

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, according to highway department officials.

NW News on 03/24/2020

Print Headline: Missouri opens bids to finish Bella Vista Bypass

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