The Fayetteville Flyover was opened to traffic Wednesday following a ribbon-cutting ceremony involving many local and state officials.
The project took 18 months to complete and connects northbound U.S. 71B to Interstate 49. Drivers northbound on College Avenue before had to perform a left-handed U-turn at Joyce Boulevard to gain access to the interstate.
The ceremony kicked off with the Arkansas congressional delegation, mayor and City Council members performing a ceremonial first drive over the Flyover procession-style, which was led by Fayetteville police.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Congressman Steve Womack (R-Ark.) were a few of the speakers. The cutting of the ribbon happened after their presentations.
"We are very excited to see how this is going to operate," said Chris Brown, Fayetteville city engineer. "We've seen it on plans and what it looks like out there. Now, we are ready to see what it looks like with traffic flowing on it."
Drivers said they are excited about the change.
"That Flyover is really going to help us, especially me getting to work in the morning,” said Amma Martin, a local driver.
"Oh, it's going to be a really big improvement,” said Dianna Jennings, another driver. “It’s a great big improvement."
The job started in early 2013, with crews breaking ground on the project in January. By September, the bridge began to take shape.
“They had to dig eight-foot diameter holes in the ground for the footings to go in,” Brown said. “All of that stuff was below ground. Of course, you could see all of the workers out there, but you couldn't really see the bridge starting to grow.”
Then the winter rolled around. The project was at a standstill from December to March.
"We just had to sit around and wait, because there really wasn't much we could do,” Brown said. "As the weather started warming up and folks didn't see things moving again, everybody started to wonder a little bit what might have happened."
Construction on the $6.3 million bridge was still on schedule, despite the harsh winter. In May, crews began the final phases. They poured concrete, striped the bridge, installed the guard rails and placed a stop light off of the ramp.
"It's been just a hundred little things that they've had to do to tie together all of the ends,” Brown said. “Finish the paving, get all of the striping done and finish up the project."
Brown said crews finished the bridge two months early and under budget. Eighty percent of the Flyover was paid for by federal funds, and the rest was paid by the city.