A Missouri company will be paid $102 million to complete two sections of the Interstate 49 Bella Vista Bypass in Arkansas, and Arkansas should be able to keep its promise of having the roadway open in 2022.
The construction bids, opened by the Arkansas Department of Transportation on Wednesday, showed Emery Sapp & Company of Columbia, Mo. will be paid $66.6 million to complete a single-point urban interchange at the south end of the project in Bentonville that will connect the bypass with U.S. 71 and I-49.
Additionally, Sapp will be paid to finish the final 2.5 miles of the I-49 Bella Vista Bypass in Arkansas that’s near the Missouri state line. That work will cost $35.2 million.
Sapp is the apparent low bidder on both projects, meaning the state will review aspects of the bid that was submitted to ensure that it meets all the department’s requirements.
The Bella Vista Bypass also includes a still-to-be-completed project in Missouri that covers about five miles, and the states have synced up their jobs well.
All three projects — the two in Arkansas and the one in Missouri — should be complete in 2022.
Missouri, which received a $25 million federal grant last year for the project that was pursued by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission in partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Council, expects to spend about $48 million on its five miles.
Wednesday’s bid openings for the two Northwest Arkansas projects were important steps toward advancing highway infrastructure, but there remain many other critical highway construction jobs to fund across the region.
That funding needed for other key projects would become available if Arkansas voters agree in November 2020 to extend a half-cent sales tax that was first approved by voters in 2012. That 2012 proposal paid for large portions of the Bella Vista Bypass, a $100 million section of the future U.S. 412 Bypass of Springdale (referred to as Arkansas Highway 612 until it’s actually connected to U.S. 412), and widening I-49 to six lanes from Bentonville to Fayetteville.
If voters in November 2020 approve the sales-tax extension, there would be additional big-ticket highway construction in the region. The state Transportation Department in June shared a draft map that showed there would be funding to widen portions of Arkansas Highway 112 from Bentonville to Fayetteville and to build two more sections of the future U.S. 412 Bypass.
Just as importantly as the U.S. 412 and Arkansas 112 projects, the sales tax would generate money for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport access road. That roadway is viewed as a connection to the busy regional airport initially, but it could ultimately become a roadway to extend further north to provide a four-lane road for people who commute to work to and from Centerton and other cities in western Benton County.
The draft map that shows those projects continues to be discussed, and it’s not considered a final proposal.
Pictured at the top: An aerial view shared by Arkansas Department of Transportation photographer Rusty Hubbard shows an area where Bella Vista Bypass construction in Arkansas continues to progress.