By Jeff Della Rosa, Talk Business & Politics, August 1, 2019
Emery Sapp & Sons Inc. of Columbia, Mo., will build the final segments of the Bella Vista Bypass in Arkansas over the next two years.
On Aug. 1, the Arkansas Highway Commission approved two bids submitted by Emery Sapp & Sons. Combined, the bids were for $102.11 million. One is for a 2.4-mile segment of the bypass, from Benton County Road 34 to the Missouri state line. The other is for a single-point urban interchange for the bypass at U.S. Highway 71B, in north Bentonville. As it is, existing segments of the bypass comprise Arkansas Highway 549 but would become part of Interstate 49 when the 18.9-mile bypass is completed.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) opened bids for the projects in a bid letting July 24. Emery Sapp & Sons was the apparent low bidder for the two projects. Danny Straessle, public information officer for ArDOT, previously said if the bids are approved, work could start in 90 days. An ArDOT committee checked for errors in the bids before making recommendations to the director, who determined whether to approve the bids.
The work will be part of the $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program, which was paid for with a half-cent sales tax that’s set to end in 2023. Voters in November 2012 approved the tax.
Emery Sapp & Sons is expected to complete the single-point urban interchange in mid-2021, or in about two years. It’s a $66.59 million project, and work is ongoing on a single-point urban interchange at Exit 85, spanning Rogers and Bentonville. Work on the 2.4-mile segment of the bypass is projected to be completed in mid-2020. The $35.52 million project will include a divided, four-lane highway.
The two bypass projects in Arkansas were contingent on Missouri working to complete its portion of the bypass. Missouri plans to complete its $47.9 million portion of the bypass by summer 2022. The 4.81-mile project would be partially paid for with a $25 million federal grant the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission received in December 2018.
U.S. Highway 71 fills the gap between the completed sections of I-49 in Missouri and Arkansas, and about 50,000 motorists per day travel the highway through nine intersections with traffic signals in Bella Vista.
Over the past 25 years, Missouri and Arkansas have worked to complete I-49 between Interstate 40 and Interstate 70, and when the 18.9-mile bypass is complete, an uninterrupted 270 miles of interstate between Kansas City, Mo., and Fort Smith will be completed. Congress designated the interstate as high priority corridor No. 1.