Missouri money woes to delay Bella Vista Bypass until 2021
FAYETTEVILLE — Missouri will push back finishing the missing link in the Bella Vista Bypass section of Interstate 49 at least a year because officials don’t have the money to build their portion.
Frank Miller, a planning manager for the Missouri Department of Transportation southwest division, said MoDOT is just trying to maintain the infrastructure it has with the money it has available.
“We do an asset management plan that tells us this is how much money it takes us to keep the system in good condition and we do have a little money left over, but not enough to close the funding gap for the Bella Vista Bypass,” Miller said. “We’ll be moving partial funding for Bella Vista back each year to keep it in the fourth year of our program until we’re able to find a way to come up with additional funds to actually fund the project.”
To that end, MoDOT officials asked the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission to amend the region’s Transportation Improvement Plan, which also includes McDonald County, and schedule the project for 2021. The plan is a list of federally-funded transportation projects proposed by various communities, transit providers, the commission and the Arkansas and Missouri transportation departments.
“We’ve done this before, just moving it, and we continue to communicate with ArDOT and MoDOT about the need,” said Tim Conklin, senior planner. “It’s all within our region, it’s all in the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission’s planning area.”
The gap in I-49, also being referred to now as the I-49 Connector, has been a contentious issue for years. At one point Missouri had money set aside and Arkansas didn’t, so MoDOT used the money on other projects. Then, Arkansas voters passed a sales tax in 2012 dedicated to road construction, including I-49 improvements. Now, Arkansas has the money set aside and Missouri doesn’t.
“This project, this TIP amendment, it’s about 4.81 miles but the entire project is 18.9 miles,” Conklin said of the Bella Vista Bypass. “The major hold-up to complete a 265-mile corridor between I-40 and Kansas City is funding.”
Conklin said everything else is in place.
“The designs are complete. All the right of way has been acquired. The environmental documentation is complete,” Conklin said. “The main hold-up to complete all 18.9 miles of the project is funding in Missouri. The project’s completely funded in Arkansas. It’s been allocated, but it’s been delayed due to the fact that MoDot cannot find the funds to complete the entire funding package.”
Miller said MoDOT does plan to demolish several dilapidated structures on its right of way this year.
Arkansas opened a twolane section of the Bella Vista Bypass in April but is holding off on the other two lanes until Missouri is ready, according to planners. The current end of the bypass in Arkansas is northwest of Hiwasse, 2.3 miles from the state line.
The other unfinished part of the project in Arkansas consists of interchange improvements at I-49 and U.S. 71 in Bentonville, where the Bella Vista Bypass heads west. That work is planned for 2020 and expected to cost $43.1 million.
MoDOT officials in January said finishing the missing portion of the Bella Vista Bypass was their top priority, they just needed $32.2 million to do the four lanes from Pineville, Mo., to the state line.
Missouri has acquired the right of way, done an environmental study, designed the road and has about $18.4 million set aside for the $50.8 million project, regional planners were told.
MoDOT needs $32.3 million more for the demolition of structures in the right of way, moving utilities and construction.