By Wally Kennedy
BELLA VISTA, Ark. —
A proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot in Arkansas would add a half-cent to the state’s 6-cent sales tax to raise money for local and state transportation projects.
If that happens, it could initiate work on the long-awaited Bella Vista bypass on U.S. Highway 71, which would swing around to the west side of Bella Vista.
Craig Douglass, spokesman for the Move Arkansas Forward campaign that is supporting the measure, said, “It could be a tremendous benefit to that area. It would begin two lanes of the eventual four-lane Bella Vista bypass, which will eventually become Interstate 49.’’
The measure would not raise taxes on groceries, medicine or gasoline.
The state would use its portion of the new sales tax revenue to back road construction bonds worth $1.3 billion. Northwest Arkansas would get 25 percent of the total amount expended statewide.
The measure is receiving heavy support in Northwest Arkansas where some of the nation’s largest truck fleets are operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., and J.B. Hunt Transport Services.
The tax also could benefit residents across the state line in Southwest Missouri, who would use the bypass to commute to work in Arkansas or to the airport or the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Seventy percent of the revenue generated by the half-cent increase would pay for new four-lane highways around the state. The remainder — approximately $700 million — would go to counties and cities to spend on roads. The levy would expire after 10 years. Under the amendment, there could be no extension.
Douglass said, “Issue No. 1 on the ballot provides city and county revenue for the local road projects. Benton County would get over $43 million over the next 10 years for local road and street projects.
“The money flows directly to the county for use on transportation-related projects as they see fit,’’ he said. “The bond issue is for new construction. The city and county funds can be used for maintenance.’’
The bond money also would be used to widen Interstate 540 to six lanes between Fayetteville and Bentonville.
The Missouri portion of Interstate 49, which stretches from Pineville to Kansas City, is set to fully open at noon on Dec. 12. Eventually, the highway will provide an all-interstate connection between Kansas City and New Orleans.