BELLA VISTA (KFSM) – Plans to extend the Bella Vista Bypass have hit a dead end after Missouri voters defeated a sales tax increase Tuesday (Aug. 5) that would have funded more than 800 transportation projects.
Missourians voted the measure down with 59 percent voting 'no', and 41 percent voting 'yes'.
If approved, the meausre would've raised the sales tax three-quarters of a cent for the next 10 years. It would not have applied to groceries, gasoline or prescriptions. In addition, the tax would've funded more than 800 projects statewide, including the extension of the Bella Vista Bypass across state lines.
"Taxes are high enough, and you know a dollar is hard to come by nowadays," said Tammy Thomas, who voted against the sale-tax measure, Amendment 7.
"We are totally for it," said Keith Lindquist, who voted for it. "I still think they will find a way to do it."
The Missouri portion of the Bella Vista Bypass would cost around $40 million. Missouri transportation officials said they don't have any reserve funding to build the road, adding they're not sure when the money will be available.
"We are very disappointed in the result, but the people have spoken and we respect that," said Stephen Miller, chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. "As we have seen for the past several years, I think Missourians have a clear understanding that more resources need to be invested in our transportation infrastructure, but there just isn't any consensus on how to pay for it. We need to continue to working toward that end."
Since Missouri voters rejected the transportation tax, the Bella Vista Bypass will now stop about two miles south of the Arkansas-Missouri border on County Road 34 near Hiwasse, according to John McLarty, transportation study director for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.
“It’s not a road to nowhere, but it would be a road to a county road up in North Arkansas on the west side of Bella Vista,” McLarty said. “But it would be much nicer to go to Pineville, Missouri, in the Missouri portion of it.”
The 19-mile road project would’ve been built from Bentonville north into Pineville, Missouri, which would become a part of Interstate 49.
"Travel, shopping and tourists would have gained a lot by not having all the trucks on the main roads," said Linda Doeppke who voted for Amendment 7. "I don't know when they can put it on the ballot again, or what happens next. Maybe someone just needs to give us millions of dollars to finish it."
A three-mile stretch of the Bella Vista Bypass in Hiwasse is complete and being used by drivers.
When the project is finished, people will be able to drive from Bentonville into Missouri on Interstate 49. The Bella Vista bypass would complete I-49 from Fort Smith to Kansas City.
“It’s eventually going to go all the way from Shreveport, Louisiana, up to Kansas City, and then even plan to be further North,” McLarty said. “It’s a major interstate corridor, and this is one of the missing pieces of it.”
Interstate 49 ultimately will connect Louisiana all the way to Canada.