BELLA VISTA (KFSM) -- A ribbon cutting was held on Wednesday (May 10) to celebrate the opening of the 6.4 mile extension of the Bella Vista Bypass that will be open to drivers next week.
The bypass is part of the Connecting Arkansas Program that voters approved in 2012.
The extension begins at Highway 72 on the east side of Hiwasse and ends at U.S. 71B at the temporary roundabout. Hiwasse resident Shelia Lock said this is something that she has been looking forward to.
"The congestion with the schools and stuff like that, it's going to be absolutely amazing. With the schools buses and stuff, from seven to noon it's awful and then from five to seven it's awful. So, we can't for this to just clear up some of the congestion around here," Lock said.
Bella Vista Mayor Peter Christie said this will help clear the congestion on Highway 71.
"This now gives our west side residents the option of being able to get on the interchange and come right down here, hopefully taking some of the traffic off 71," Christie said.
This portion of the bypass will be the future south lanes of a four-lane divided interstate, but it will operate right now as a two-lane highway. Danny Straessle with the Arkansas Highway Department said in the next five years they plan to start construction on the north lanes.
"It's progress, we've got the money, we're going to hang onto it, we're going to make sure that when Missouri is ready, we are ready and that I-49 continues to serve and grow in Northwest Arkansas and points beyond," Straessle said.
Construction started in 2014 on this portion of the bypass and cost more than $50 million to complete.