State and community leaders earlier today broke ground on one of the biggest highway projects in state history.
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett, Highway Commission Chairman Dick Trammel, former Highway Commissioner Bobby Hopper and Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse were among the estimated 100 people who attended the event that helped kick off construction on the U.S. 412 bypass of Springdale.
The four-lane, interstate-style freeway section of the bypass will cost $100.6 million. It will cover 4.5 miles, connecting Interstate 49 to Arkansas Highway 112. It should shorten the travel time for motorists headed to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
The Highway Department opened construction bids on the project in December. The work by Eutaw Construction of Aberdeen, Mississippi is expected to take until 2019.
The 4.5-mile section of highway is the single most expensive highway project taken on in Northwest Arkansas since 1999.
Northwest Arkansas has a long history of seeing big-ticket, years-long projects move from a small start to a successful completion. Projects such as the construction of Interstate 49 through mountainous terrain from Mountainburg to Fayetteville, building the Benton Washington Regional Public Water Authority on Beaver Lake, developing and building Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and planning and construction of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport each took several years, and they all now stand as testaments to the region's determination to complete what's started.
The Springdale bypass project is being funded by a half-cent sales tax approved by statewide voters in November 2012. That sales tax is paying for projects all across Arkansas, including sections of the Bella Vista Bypass, widenings sections of I-49 to six lanes and building the first section of the Springdale bypass in Northwest Arkansas.
The long-term plan is for the 20-mile Springdale bypass to stretch from Tontitown, which is west of Springdale, to the community of Sonora, which is east of Springdale. The Highway Department hasn’t determined how to pay for the entire project.
The bypass was identified by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Mobility Authority as a priority. It will improve east-west travel, allowing motorists to avoid the most traffic-congested areas of Springdale when it’s complete.