The Missouri Department of Transportation opened construction bids today to build its portion of the Interstate 49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector.
Missouri is responsible for about $58.6 million to build the five-mile section of the roadway, which is also referred to as the Bella Vista Bypass. The apparent low bid of $58,509,919 was submitted by Emery Sapp & Sons, a Columbia, Mo., a company that has built other sections of the roadway.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, other members of Congress in Arkansas and Missouri, and the Northwest Arkansas Council played key roles in assisting the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission in obtaining a $25 million federal grant for the McDonald County, Missouri I-49 project in 2018. The I-49 Missouri project is in the commission’s planning area, and it transferred the funds over to Missouri for construction.
A Missouri Department of Transportation timeline shows construction would start in April this year and be finished by Sept. 30, 2021. No disruption of the timeline is anticipated, but Missouri is monitoring the COVID-19 situation.
Officials in Northwest Arkansas and members of Congress started referring more frequently to the roadway as the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector as a way to better convey to people across the nation where the Bella Vista Bypass is located. The connector name was helpful in gaining federal support and better recognition of the importance of the project on a national stage.
The I-49 project’s importance to America’s Heartland has long been clear. The city of Bella Vista in Northwest Arkansas is the only location in the 270-mile stretch between Fort Smith and Kansas City where traffic must leave I-49 to continue traveling north or south.
When completed, the 19-mile connector will allow motorists to swing west and south of Bella Vista on the new four-lane interstate. Motorists will be able to avoid nearly a dozen traffic signals on U.S. 71 in the city, reducing travel times and improving their safety by accessing the less-congested connector.
The Northwest Arkansas Council prioritized the completion of the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector, describing it as one of the region’s most important projects. It looks as if all sections of the roadway will be open to drivers in 2022.
Arkansas has paid for major portions of the connector with funding from the half-cent sales tax approved by statewide voters in 2012. Voters will be asked in November to extend that 10-year sales tax that was first collected in July 2013.
Arkansas continues to build a $35.2 million, 2.5-mile section of I-49 near the Arkansas-Missouri line. The other project in Arkansas is a $66 million interchange where I-49 meets U.S. 71 in Bentonville.
Pictured at the top: The photo taken in the spring 2017 shows a two-lane portion of the future Interstate 49 in Arkansas. The six-mile section of the roadway started out as two lanes, but it’s now expanded to four lanes.