Mis­souri money woes to de­lay Bella Vista By­pass un­til 2021

Westside Eagle-Observer - - NEWS - By Ron Wood rwood@nwadg.com

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.

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