U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department Director Dan Flowers and other state highway officials on Friday, July 8, to break ground on the first project of the Bella Vista Bypass that will link freight routes and open the region to economic growth.
“Arkansas has waited a long time for this project, and thanks to Recovery Act funds and the dedication of state and federal transportation partners, the wait is over,” LaHood says. “This project will help jumpstart economic development in Northwest Arkansas and bring much needed jobs to the region.”
The $19.9 million first segment on the bypass is funded with $10 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program. The TIGER grant program promotes innovative, multimodal and multijurisdictional transportation projects that provide significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, region or the nation.
The Bella Vista Bypass project will construct a three-mile two-lane segment between two interchanges as well as an access road near the city of Bella Vista, Ark. When the 19-mile bypass is fully constructed, it will complete a link in the Interstate 49 corridor, connecting the Port of New Orleans with a number of interstates and improving the movement of goods to the Great Lakes and Canada. The new bypass also will separate commercial traffic from local traffic, improving the safety of the existing route through downtown.
“The economic benefits of the bypass will positively impact the entire region and allow those who live in the area to spend less time in their cars and more time doing things they enjoy,” says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “In addition, it will be safer for local traffic because critical freight shipments will move through the area on a separate route.”