BELLA VISTA (KFSM) – Anyone driving through Bella Vista knows the congestion can be terrible, but relief is on the way.
The $52 million Bella Vista bypass is set to open to drivers this spring despite funding issues for both Missouri and Arkansas. Arkansas has the money, but Missouri does not.
The bypass will be a through passage for traffic to connect 1-49 from southern Missouri to Northwest Arkansas. This will be the portion from state highway 72 on the east side of the Hiwassee community all the way to highway 71 business.
Arkansas Highway Department Spokesman Danny Strassle said a portion of the bypass near Hiwassee is already open to drivers and this new portion will connect to it.
“Like the other project, we completed we're only doing two lanes of the bypass. And so we'll operate it as a two lane highway until we build out the other set of lanes. The Bella Vista bypass will be a four-lane divided interstate highway system,” Strassle said.
There will also be a temporary roundabout at I-49 and 71 because they cannot build the original interchange design until Missouri begins and finishes their portion.
“This will be something new for the area residents but we put that in there so that folks could have immediate access to the bypass instead of waiting until we had the other set of lanes constructed,” Strassle said.
Bella Vista Mayor Peter Christie said they are anxious for the project to be completed because they desperately need to get the congestion off of highway 71.
“When it does open in April it means that everyone on the west side is going to have the opportunity to get on to the bypass and go directly south on 49 without having to take streets here and connect on 71,” Christie said.
The district planning manager with the Missouri Highway Department said they now have $18.4 million out of the $32 million they need for their portion of the bypass. They said this project is high priority. They do not have a timeline for when their portion of the project will begin.