End In Sight For Six-Lane Construction On Interstate 49 In Northwest Arkansas

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- The chaos that is Interstate 49 construction rolls on in Northwest Arkansas.

There does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel, as completion of the third lane is near.

Between the miles of concrete barriers and endless orange traffic barrels, drivers heading along I-49 in Northwest Arkansas are faced with a white-knuckled trip to reach their destination.

Larry Henry is a teacher at Haas Hall Academy in Bentonville. He is also a political contributor to 5NEWS.

He makes the commute between Fayetteville and Bentonville in the peak traffic times every day.

"For those who commute it every day, when the three lanes on the interstate weren't built out, it became a little bit of a challenge," said Henry, while taking us along for his commute. "Especially if there were a wreck to get to work on time."

Construction on I-49 started back in 2015. Since then, Henry has dealt with the progression of two lanes turning to three and then back to two throughout sections of Benton and Washington Counties.

Avoiding the worst spots has even turned into a strategy of sorts.

"The trick is, how far do you take the service roads to find a nice little entry into the interstate, close enough to the three lanes that are open so that you can do that three lane glide," Henry said.

Currently, an eight mile stretch from Johnson Mill Boulevard to Wagon Wheel Road is open to six lanes, but the vast majority of road remains four lanes, with intimidating concrete barriers lining the shoulder.

"These concrete barriers sort of keep you boxed in, you can't do much," Henry said. "I've heard people voice concern about that, I'm not that concerned with these barriers to be honest with you."

Danny Straessle with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department says the end is in sight, at least in terms of a six lane interstate.

"All of the construction that's underway right now, except for the Springdale bypass, will be done by the end of this year," Straessle said.

Work will also continue on the Fulbright Express Interchange at exit 67 until the end of 2017. Construction on the 412 bypass will go well into the next several years. The Bella Vista Bypass could also take years since it is dependent upon Missouri completing its stretch of road.

"Both highway commissions have visited with each other as well as congressional delegations," Straessle said. "So, there are really some high level conversations going on `how can we make this happen?'"

One way would include the Trump administration providing federal funding for the project as part of a large infrastructure bill. Until that time, Henry said he will continue to deal with the commute because he knows it will only help the area when complete.

"I'm glad we live in a place where there are jobs and there's construction on the roads to sort of accommodate all that," he said.