The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department opened construction bids this morning for a six-mile portion of the Bella Vista Bypass, accepting the apparent low bid of $52.7 million to build two lanes of the highway that will eventually be expanded to four lanes.
The $52.7 milllion bid came from Kolb Grading LLC, a Weldon Spring, Mo. company, meaning one of Northwest Arkansas’ highest prority infrastructure projects takes another significant step forward.
The low bid was well below three others submitted that ranged from $56.9 million to $78.2 million.
The newest section of the Bella Vista Bypass, which will run from Bentonville to a location southeast of Hiwasse, is the first Connecting Arkansas Program (CAP) project taken on since voters approved Issue No. 1 in November 2012.
The entire Bella Vista Bypass will be a 19-mile highway to connect Bentonville to Pineville, Mo. About five miles of the highway are in Missouri. Missouri hasn’t determined how it will fund its portion.
While the highway has been a Northwest Arkansas priority for years, the Bella Vista Bypass is also one of the state’s most important highway projects.
The bypass is a key piece of what will become Interstate 49 from Bentonville to Fort Smith and on to the Louisiana state line. I-49 is widely recognized as a huge national priority because it will connect New Orleans to Canada.
“The CAP is one of the largest highway construction programs ever undertaken by the department,” said Scott Bennett, director of the Arkansas Highway Department. “Voters of the state spoke up with the passage of the program. Now, it’s time for us to get the construction going, starting with another phase of the new Bella Vista Bypass.”
The first CAP project will pay for the largest of three Bella Vista Bypass projects taken on since 2011.
At a cost of $19.9 million, a three-mile section of the Bella Vista Bypass near Hiwasse is 96 percent complete, said Highway Department spokesman Glenn Bolick.
The Hiwasse project, started in 2011, will be finished ahead of schedule by contractor APAC-Central Inc. of Fayetteville, meaning motorists should be using the highway sometime in March. (The photo above shows an APAC-Central employee on Feb. 21, 2014 putting an asphalt overlay on Arkansas 279 where it passes under a portion of the Bella Vista Bypass. APAC’s work is part of Hiawasse section.).
In May 2012, a $13.5 million contract was awarded to continue work on the Bella Vista Bypass from Hiwasse to County Road 34. It should be complete near the end of this year.
The overall CAP program, which is being funded by a statewide half-cent sales tax that’s scheduled to be collected for 10 years, will lead to major highway upgrades. In Northwest Arkansas, the CAP-funded projects include the Bella Vista Bypass, widening additional sections of I-540 to six lanes between Fayetteville and Bentonville, and building a four-mile section of the U.S. 412 Bypass of Springdale.
The state’s 31 CAP projects, covering approximately 180 miles of highways, will represent an estimated $1.8 billion investment into the Arkansas highway system.
Two more contracts, both funded under the CAP, are needed to complete the initial two lanes of the ultimate four-lane BellaVista Bypass in Arkansas. One will complete the full interchange at U.S. 71 in Bentonville near the Lowe’s Home Improvement store. The second will extend north from County Road 34 to the Missouri line.