Starting today, drivers can use the long-awaited, new Interstate 49 Bella Vista bypass, which links 265 miles of interstate between Fort Smith and Kansas City, Missouri.
Why it matters: If you've ever tried to drive south from north Bella Vista (a constant thorn in Alex's side), you know you have to allot plenty of time to sit in traffic that lets up as soon as you get on the interstate or to Walton Boulevard.
- And you've probably noticed that a good chunk of that traffic is trucks that would likely rather be moving along the freeway than stuck by a Starbucks.
- The new bypass will keep drivers trying to get to and from Missouri on I-49 instead of having them drive through town.
Context: This project has been a long time coming. Arkansas, Missouri and federal transportation officials have discussed the need for a Bella Vista bypass for more than 25 years. Construction started in 2011 and cost more than $220 million, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
- A portion of it — the section connecting U.S. 71/I-49 to Arkansas 72 near Hiwasse — opened in 2017.
State of play: About 22,000 vehicles a day travel through Bella Vista on U.S. 71 near the state line, and about 18% of those vehicles are trucks, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this spring.
- In addition to making everyone's lives a little easier, Arkansas and Missouri state officials say the more efficient route will benefit both states' economies.
- "You will see business follow this interstate," Missouri Gov. Mike Parson told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Yes, but: The bypass is only one piece in relieving the Bella Vista traffic. In a 2017 study, the Arkansas Department of Transportation proposed ideas like an eastern connection with a new interchange at Northeast J Street and auxiliary lanes on U.S. 71.
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