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Regional Planners Inquire Federal Grant for I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFTA) -- The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission is in pursuit of a $25 million federal grant for the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector.

The commission’s staff worked closely with the Northwest Arkansas Council in submitting the application for a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to pay for a portion of the connector.

Complimenting the federal grant would be the $22 million set aside by Missouri, $35.2 million for 2.5 miles of I-49 in Arkansas near the Arkansas-Missouri line and $51.4 million in Arkansas for a new interchange where I-49 meets U.S. 71 in Bentonville. The $86.6 million in Arkansas money comes from a half-cent sales tax approved by voters.

The Missouri Department of Transportation, the Arkansas Department of Transportation, key members of Congress, Missouri lawmakers and the business community in Arkansas and Missouri all said they are supportive of this project. 

“U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, in particular, has really gotten involved, contacting the Northwest Arkansas Council and encouraging us to work with the planning commission to seek this grant,” said Nelson Peacock, the president and CEO of the Council.

The Connector would allow motorists to bypass Bella Vista, swinging west and south of the city on the new four-lane interstate. Drivers would avoid nine traffic signals on U.S. 71, reducing their travel times and improving their safety by accessing the less congested Connector, Peacock said. 

“Reducing travel time and improving safety are both extremely important, but it also makes so much sense to do what we can to stretch the economic success of Northwest Arkansas into Southwest Missouri,” Peacock said. “The Connector is part of accomplishing all of those goals.”

The regional planning commission last year applied for an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America federal grant for the Missouri-Arkansas Connector, competing against more than 230 other projects. It would have taken more than $12 billion to fund all the requests, and the INFRA program in June announced it would provide $1.5 billion to 26 of the INFRA applicants.

“For the Council, finishing I-49 in rural Southwest Missouri to better connect it to our region is a never-give-up project, and we’re appreciative of the regional planning commission’s dogged pursuit of getting it done. It’s the single most important infrastructure priority to so many in Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas,” Peacock said. 

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