Local leaders share progress and plans for I-49

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After more than two decades, local leaders say we’re only a couple of years away from I-49 being completed all the way to the Arkansas state line. And it’s expected to have a big impact on the economy of Southwest Missouri.

When is work expected to begin on the West Bella Vista Bypass? That’s the question on everyone’s mind right now. County leaders say they don’t expect any dirt to move this year, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any work done. In fact, Pineville Mayor Gregg Sweeten says because of how much Benton County, Arkansas has grown, his city is getting ready for a boom of their own.

“Growth has got to start moving this direction,” says Gregg Sweeten.

Sweeten says Pineville and McDonald County are already seeing some of that growth.

“We’ve gained a couple of new businesses down on the Arkansas-Missouri state line, on our side, we’ve got a bunch of new homes here in Pineville that’s went up, the new bus barn here behind us, we’re actually starting to see growth,” says Sweeten.

But Senator David Sater says it won’t just be McDonald county that benefits from interstate access to Northwest Arkansas.

“I think for the economy for Southwest Missouri it is very vital that we have that road completed as soon as we can,” says Sater.

Last December, the federal government issued a $25 million dollar grant to complete an eighteen-point mile section of I-49, south of Pineville. And while the Missouri legislature will still have to come up with a portion of the funding for the project, House Budget Chairman Cody Smith says getting the road finished is a big priority.

“We’re very, very close to that, and I am, and the rest of our Southwest Missouri delegation is highly interested in seeing that through and getting that done very soon,” says Smith.

Even then, the state of Arkansas will have work to do on their side of the state line. But Senator Sader says he’s not concerned about that.

“They realize the value of it also, you know, of having that corridor completed,” says Sater.

Sweeten says McDonald county stands to gain from the completion of the road, and not just from businesses and people moving in. There’s also the large amount of people who will be passing through, spending money which will boost the local tax base. And because of that, Sweeten says…

“We’ve fought, and we’ve talked, and we’ve went for so many years, you know, it’s partially done, but we want it completed,” says Sweeten.

There aren’t any firm time tables in place just yet, but McDonald county leaders say they’re expecting work to begin on the remaining portion of I-49 sometime in the spring of 2020.

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