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The opening of a Northwest Arkansas highway was celebrated today, providing the region with one of its best options for travel between Fayetteville and Rogers.

The opening of the new four-mile section of Arkansas Highway 265 means there’s just one more project to finish up on the highway and that last section in Springdale should open early this year, said Scott Bennett, the director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Crossland Construction of Columbus, Kan., was hired by the Transportation Department to build the highway section that was celebrated earlier today for $15 million, starting the work in 2016.

Dick Trammel, who is the current chairman of the Highway Commission but ends his 10-year term later this month, pushed for major Arkansas 265 improvements for years. Trammel believed a north-south route on the east side of the Northwest Arkansas metropolitan area would be a nice compliment to Interstate 49 and U.S. Highway 71B.

Trammel and Bennett were joined by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse, Rogers Mayor Greg Hines, Benton County Judge Barry Moehring, four other state Highway Commission members and several state legislators at today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Jones Center in Springdale.

The Transportation Department started improving the Arkansas 265 corridor in 1978, and will have completed eight projects over the 40 years. The combined cost of those projects is $105.9 million, Bennett said.

Bennett complimented the cities of Springdale and Fayetteville for contributing money to Arkansas 265 projects over the years, and other Northwest Arkansas cities have a long history of contributing funding to highway projects in partnerships with the Transportation Department to speed up their completion.

The final piece of the Arkansas 265 improvements is well on its way toward completion. It stretches from Arkansas Highway 264 in Bethel Heights to Randall Wobbe Lane in Springdale. The roadway celebrated earlier today is immediately north of Arkansas 264.

Once the last Arkansas 265 project is finished, it’s believed the new roadway will pull a combined 6,000 to 8,000 vehicles a day off I-49 and U.S. 71B, Bennett said.

There remain major highway projects to complete in Northwest Arkansas in the coming years, and most of them need significant funding before they can be built.

The biggest of the incomplete projects is Arkansas Highway 612, a highway that will eventually become the east-west U.S. 412 Bypass of Springdale. A statewide half-cent sales tax approved in 2012 provided funding to open a $101 million portion of highway last year, but it will take hundreds of millions of additional dollars to complete the entire route from Tontitown to Sonora.

The region also needs a spur off the new Arkansas 612 to connect it to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. That roadway toward the airport would make it possible to travel from XNA to I-49 on a four-lane divided highway.

A third priority is identifying full funding for improvements to Arkansas Highway 112, a curvy, two-lane roadway on the west side of the metropolitan area that connects Bentonville to Fayetteville. A 2015 study put the cost of the 112 improvements between $109 million and $134 million.

Pictured at the top: Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Highway Commission Chairman Dick Trammel cut a ribbon today to celebrate the competition of a new section of Arkansas Highway 265.

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