- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

BELLA VISTA, Ark. (AP) - Plans for a highway bypass that would route traffic around a northwest Arkansas city are in limbo after Missouri voters rejected an amendment to fund their state’s cut of the project.

The Missouri measure failed by nearly a 3-to-2 ratio in a statewide ballot Tuesday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1skQLac ). The Bella Vista bypass was designed to route interstate traffic around the western edge of the Arkansas city. It would have reconnected to Interstate 49 near Pineville, Missouri.

The Interstate 49 bypass was part of a larger defeated amendment to provide $540 million per year for Missouri highway and road construction through a statewide sales tax. District engineer Becky Baltz of Missouri’s transportation department said the Belle Vista project would have cost Arkansas taxpayers an estimated $150 million and Missouri taxpayers $50 million.

Spokesman Danny Straessle of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said officials have alternative plans for the bypass they could consider, given the history of “missed connections” between Arkansas and Missouri for the project.

“(The Missouri vote) isn’t impacting anything we’re doing, because we’ve had a plan in place for quite some time, based on how this may come out for our friends to the north,” Straessle said.

Construction of the current bypass ends about 2 ½ miles before the Missouri border. Straessle said it will literally be a road to nowhere if construction continues all the way to the border.

But transportation planner John McLarty of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission said the bypass will still be useful for commuters even if it stops shorter of the state line.

“Every segment being built is a usable segment,” McLarty said. “You’ve got the residents on the west side of Bella Vista, you’ve got the residents in Gravette. There’s more people than you think living in that western half of Bella Vista.”

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