Grant jump starts completion of Interstate 49 project

I-49 to connect Missouri and Arkansas

Completion of a major interstate — something that’s been in the works for more than 20 years — between Missouri and Arkansas is one step closer.

A 25-million dollar grant from the U-S Department of Transportation will go toward completion of Interstate-49.

A five-mile stretch will be built south of Pineville — and will run to the state line — to connect to a 14-mile stretch being built and updated by ArDot, that’ll run west of Bella Vista.

We went to McDonald county to get reaction from residents and learn how it could impact the area.

Barbara Digiovanni has worked at Burger Time just off of I-49 in Pineville for 6 years, where business is usually pretty steady.

Digiovanni:”It’s picked up over the last couple years. Just more I guess word of mouth, and people stopping off the interstate saying, wow, there it is, there’s a place to eat.”

She’s excited about the completion of I-49 between McDonald county and Northwest Arkansas because it could mean more business from Arkansas.

Digiovanni:”That’ll give Northwest Arkansas a chance to come down and visit us, and try us out.”

She isn’t the only one that thinks the new stretch could bring more business to the county.. McDonald county commissioners have been pushing for completion of the road for a number of years.

John Bunch, McDonald County Commission:”We’re talking about a main shipping route. We have so many different routes for industry to come in here and say, no matter where we want to ship to, we’re centrally located, we can get our products to these customers so much quicker.. It’s a win situation for everybody across the board.”

The bypass will also ease a lot of traffic congestion in Jane and Bella Vista, Arkansas.. which, right now, is the main route to get from McDonald county to Fort Smith, Arkansas.. decreasing drive time, and increasing safety.

Keith Lindquist, McDonald County Commission:”There’s so many deaths on the highway, and if you have a four lane you know, it gives.. Your trucks can kind of detour around the cars. Because through the years we’ve had about a hundred and fifty deaths through here, and I think this would do away with a lot of it.”

All reasons why the commissioners, and many residents, are anxious for the project to get underway.

Bunch:”It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but this is not the time now to rest. It’s the time to continue on and finish the project.”

MoDot has yet to given indication on when construction may start.

86-million dollars is being used in Arkansas for the project — which is coming from a half cent sales tax in the state.