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FAYETTEVILLE -- Missouri highway officials say they want to have their portion of the Bella Vista Bypass finished by the middle of 2022 and Arkansas highway officials are moving projects up to match.

The Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved the finances and timeline for completion of 4.8 miles of Interstate 49 from Pineville to the state line.

The estimated total cost for the project, also known as the Missouri/Arkansas Connector, is $47.9 million, according to a news release from Missouri's Department of Transportation Southwest District Office.

The next step is for the project to be submitted to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission for inclusion in the metropolitan area's Transportation Improvement Program, a four-year schedule of projects.

It's anticipated the project will be put out for bids in Spring 2020 with construction being completed in the summer of 2022.

Missouri is updating construction plans for the project and seeking public comment on environmental impact of the project, according to the news release.

"The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission is pleased to see I-49 being programmed and scheduled for construction by both ARDOT and MoDOT in the near future," Tim Conklin, a senior planner said. "This is an important project of national and regional significance and we are glad we were able to play a part in moving the project forward. We would like to thank MoDOT, ARDOT, the congressional delegations of both states, and the Northwest Arkansas Council for their support."

Arkansas highway officials are going to bid the two remaining projects in July with work expected to begin in November, according to Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Transportation Department.

The two projects are the last 2.5 miles from Hiwasse to the state line and a new interchange to replace the roundabout at I-49 and U.S. 71 in Bentonville, where the highway heads west, Straessle said. The bypass currently ends just northwest of Hiwasse.

The interchange is expected to cost about $51 million and the last section of road about $35 million.

Arkansas opened a two-lane section of the bypass in May 2017. Work on the other two lanes is under way and should be done by late 2020.

In December, a $25 million federal grant was awarded to Regional Planning, which is, in turn, giving the money to cash-strapped Missouri to build the 4.8-mile section. Even though the project is across the line, it's within regional planning's jurisdiction.

The grant application had the support of both state departments of transportation, the Northwest Arkansas Council and a myriad business interests. 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 small section of I-49 in this region has been holding up completion of the 278-mile corridor 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 would allow motorists to bypass Bella Vista and its nine traffic signals, reducing travel times and improving safety, planners have said.

The grant is coming from a federal Department of Transportation program called Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development Grants, which is allocated for nationally and regionally significant projects.

The $25 million grant leverages $86.6 million from Arkansas voter-approved money along with Missouri Department of Transportation money to complete the project.

General News on 03/13/2019

Print Headline: Missouri sets timeline for Bella Vista Bypass

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