Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - DISCOVER - By Sarah Haney

The Con­nect­ing Arkansas Pro­gram (CAP) is one of the largest high­way con­struc­tion pro­grams ever un­der­taken by the Arkansas State High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment (AHTD). In 2012, through a voter-ap­proved con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, the peo­ple of Arkansas passed a 10-year, half-cent sales tax to im­prove the state’s in­ter­modal trans­porta­tion sys­tem, in­clud­ing projects that widen and im­prove ap­prox­i­mately 200 miles of high­ways and in­ter­states.

CAP His­tory

In 2009, the 87th Arkansas Gen­eral Assem­bly (AGA) passed Act 374 to cre­ate the Blue Rib­bon Com­mit­tee on High­way Fi­nance. The com­mit­tee was tasked with de­ter­min­ing an eq­ui­table and ad­e­quate sys­tem to prop­erly fi­nance trans­porta­tion im­prove­ments in Arkansas and to pro­pose and rec­om­mend high­way fi­nance leg­is­la­tion for the 2011 ses­sion.

The con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to levy a tem­po­rary sales-and-use tax was in­cluded on the 2012 Arkansas statewide gen­eral elec­tion bal­lot af­ter a bi­par­ti­san vote in the 88th AGA.

Dur­ing the Novem­ber 2012 elec­tions, Arkansans voted to ap­prove Bal­lot Is­sue No. 1, a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to pro­vide ad­di­tional fund­ing for high­ways, county roads, city streets, bridges, and sur­face trans­porta­tion. The sales tax was ap­proved by 58 per­cent of vot­ers.

With pas­sage of Is­sue No. 1, the state sales tax tem­po­rar­ily in­creases to 6.5 cents for 10 years, ef­fec­tive July 1, 2013.

The de­sign and con­struc­tion of high­way and in­ter­state widen­ing projects will be funded with the es­ti­mated $1.8 bil­lion an­tic­i­pated to ac­crue from 70 per­cent of the tax rev­enue. The re­main­ing 30 per­cent of the tax rev­enue will be turned back to lo­cal gov­ern­ments for road and street projects – 15 per­cent each for cities and coun­ties.

Bella Vista By­pass

The Bella Vista By­pass, which be­gan ini­tial plan­ning in 2014, was opened to traf­fic in May 2017. The com­pleted two-lane sec­tion con­nects U.S. High­way 71B to State High­way 72, as well as pre­vi­ously con­structed por­tions of the by­pass. Mo­torists in west­ern Benton County, south­west­ern Bella Vista and Gravette can travel from I-49 to Benton County Road 34 (12.1 miles) with­out a stop­light mak­ing com­mutes much quicker.

Projects be­tween John­son and Ben­tonville

Projects that widened I-49 to six lanes be­tween High­way 71B, in John­son, and Wagon Wheel Road, in Spring­dale, were com­pleted and the new lanes opened to traf­fic in Novem­ber 2016.

Cur­rently, a project to widen ap­prox­i­mately 5.1 miles of I-49 to six lanes, ex­tend­ing from High­way 264, in Low­ell, to New Hope Road, in Rogers, is 97 per­cent com­plete. It is pro­jected this will be com­pleted be­fore the end of 2017. An­other project, to widen ap­prox­i­mately 3.4 miles of I-49 to six lanes from High­way 62/102 to High­way 72, in Ben­tonville, is 71 per­cent com­plete. Aux­il­iary lanes will also be com­pleted from High­way 62/102 to South­east Wal­ton Boule­vard with the an­tic­i­pated com­ple­tion of this project be­ing early 2018.

The Bella Vista By­pass, which be­gan ini­tial plan­ning in 2014, was opened to traf­fic in May 2017.

Spe­cial to NWA Demo­crat-Gazette

COM­MUTERS will be­gin to see some re­lief as road work nears com­ple­tion.

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