BELLA VISTA, Ark. — Bids will go out soon for the Missouri stretch of the Bella Vista Bypass.

"We're finishing up our final (internal) review of the plan," Dave Taylor, area engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said Tuesday. "Probably two or three weeks into January we are going to send it out for bids."

Contractors will have about two or three months to review the project and return their bids for the 4.8-mile stretch, with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission awarding the project possibly by April 1, he said.

That will be followed by pre-construction meetings, with work beginning possibly by early summer.

"Everything is still on track," Taylor said. "Our plan is to have all the work done by (the) end of 2021, first part of 2022."

Arkansas officials held a ceremony in October to launch construction of the last remaining portion of the Bella Vista Bypass in their state, a 2.4-mile stretch of four-lane highway running north to the Missouri state line.

A majority of the bypass, 11.7 miles of the 18.9-mile road, has been completed on the Arkansas side.

Also called the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector, the bypass will go straight south out of Pineville and into Arkansas, circling around to the west side of Bella Vista before turning east to connect with Interstate 49 at Bentonville, Arkansas.

Bella Vista holds the only stretch of I-49 — 278 miles total between Kansas City and Fort Smith, Arkansas — where the road is not interstate quality. That stretch of U.S. Highway 71 that currently passes through Bella Vista is marked by reduced speed limits and stoplights, causing congestion and safety concerns.

Scott E. Bennett, director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said in October that the 2.4-mile stretch skirting to the west of Bella Vista will be completed in the latter part of 2020 at a price of $36 million. Arkansas officials also are working on a new interchange at Bentonville, replacing the current roundabout located at I-49 and U.S. 71 in Bentonville. It is expected to be completed by 2022 at a cost of $67 million.

The projected cost of the Missouri share of the bypass is $45 million to $50 million.

"We're finally getting close enough it is going to be realized," Taylor said.

Ultimately, I-49 will stretch from New Orleans near the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border.

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