Gravette Prepares for Bella Vista Bypass

Benton County -- Missouri's portion of the Bella Vista bypass may find funding if voters approve a sales tax hike next month.

The Arkansas portion of the road is already funded, and partially complete, but the highway department won't build the final section until Missouri plans to extend I-49 to the state line. The 3/4 cent tax would pay for more than 800 projects statewide, including the missing link in I-49. Missouri voters will decide on August 5.

Once completed, the bypass will change the flow of traffic to and from Missouri, and the city of Gravette wants to revitalize its downtown now, to draw new investment as crews continue work on the road.

"This downtown used to be the heart of Gravette," says Mayor Byron Warren.

Unfortunately, the buildings on Main Street have seen better days.

"They are kind of in disrepair from the roofs leaking," Warren says.

The city is making a new push to draw businesses downtown to prepare for thousands of drivers expected once the Bella Vista bypass is complete.

"Bringing back what we've lost is our main focus," Warren says. "The traffic is going to grow by 3-4 more thousand cars through here daily, and it will make Gravette a little bit busier town. We want to make sure that when people get off on the exit they'll have things to, to come to shop and to eat, and enjoy our little community."

The mayor Mayor is putting his money where his mouth is.

"I've recently purchased a piece of property here on Main Street to establish a restaurant, and to get more opportunity to folks to stay here in town, shop locally," he says.

Warren hopes his cafe will thrive, and encourage others to help bring main back.

"Once they see downtown businesses growing again, then we'll have more interest and more investments coming in for larger establishments such as hotels," Warren says. "When they come to look at an area to develop, the first thing they do is drive through the downtown, and if they see the downtown is is in in in disrepair, then they won't they won't want to set up shop in your town."

Crews are behind on the two sections currently under construction, but the road should connect Highway 71 near Bella Vista all the way to County Road 34 near Gravette in 2016.

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