State Highway Construction Gears Up Gravette Economy

GRAVETTE, AR -- A new name for an interstate and construction on a state highway will bring a big boom to one town's economy.

"The more people that come through town, the more money that we can capture from outside of our city so that we can start growing."

The work on Arkansas highways is funded by the state, but those dollars will be benefiting a small Northwest Arkansas City. Gravette Mayor Byron Warren is happy to see construction crews inside city limits.

"We'll have better access for the folks on the back side of Bella Vista to come over and shop in our local shops and eat in our restaurants and really bring an economic boost to our town."

Interstate 540 is now Interstate 49. The Bella Vista Bypass is now State Highway 549. The highway will open as two lanes, connecting I-49 in Arkansas to I-49 in Missouri. Once 549 expands to four lanes, Mayor Warren says it will become part of I-49 which means that national corridor will run right through Gravette.

"We're really excited about the progress that's coming along in the area and making sure the economic development and the growth is handled well... Hopefully people will stop and stay at hotels, rest areas, truck stops, convenience stores.

Once complete, there will be three Gravette exits off of 549, a big change for the once two-square-mile town.

"We still have small town values with big town dreams."

Mayor Warren says his planning commission is revamping the city's five and ten year plans. Not only are they anticipating the growth from this highway project, but with the boom in neighboring Centerton and the annexation of Hiwasse, they are getting ready for developers to start calling. The mayor estimates 549 will be complete in the next couple of years.

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