HIWASSE, Ark. — Arkansas started working on multimillion-dollar construction projects to complete its section of Interstate 49.
Highway Commissioner Phillip Taldo said when I-49 is finished it will benefit the economy of northwest Arkansas. The highway will eventually run from the Gulf Coast near New Orleans to Canada.
Officials broke ground Tuesday on a project to complete the Bella Vista Bypass, known as the Arkansas/Missouri connector, 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from the state line, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The other project is to convert a roundabout to a single-point urban interchange in Bentonville. They are estimated at more than $100 million.
Scott Bennett, the director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said the Bella Vista Bypass has been discussed for at least 25 years and the state will invest nearly $276 million for it.
Passing a half-cent sales tax for roads in 2012 made the bypass possible, Bennett noted.
State Rep. Dan Douglas, of Bentonville, said the project was initially focused on safety and getting cars off of U.S. Highway 71 through Bella Vista, but now it’s more about reducing congestion as the region grows.
“If you ever tried to go through Bella Vista down 71 at 5 o’clock on an afternoon, bless your heart,” Douglas said. “You can’t get there from here, OK?”
“Just the two-lane section that is already open reduced commute times from Gravette to Bentonville from 45 minutes on curvy, dangerous roads to 20 minutes, it’s just amazing,” Douglas added. “And, it’s unbelievable what it’s done to property values in the Hiwasse and Gravette area.”
Andrew Mueller, a district engineer, said Missouri expects to be done with its portion by 2022, which will coordinate with Arkansas’ timeline for the completion of the interchange.
Missouri has 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers) of I-49 from Pineville, Missouri, to the state line to complete, which is projected to cost $47.9 million.
Taldo said more funds are needed to complete the final section from Alma to Texarkana. He added that if Arkansas voters consider a half-cent sales tax increase, then they could use it to complete the remaining part of I-49.
“So, the rest of the country is looking at Arkansas,” he said.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting. Founded in 1846, AP today remains the most trusted source of fast, accurate, unbiased news in all formats and the essential provider of the technology and services vital to the news business. The Trucker Media Group is subscriber of The Associated Press has been granted the license to use this content on TheTrucker.com and The Trucker newspaper in accordance with its Content License Agreement with The Associated Press.