The new Interstate 49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector, also known as the Bella Vista Bypass, is complete and will open to traffic Friday, Oct. 1, the Missouri Department of Transportation announced this week.

The transportation departments of both Missouri and Arkansas, as well as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week, before the opening of the highway, to mark the project’s completion.

The project, costing an estimated $70.3 million, has relocated the four-lane divided highway to the west of existing U.S. Highway 71, and it includes a new interchange at Highway 90 west of Jane. The new highway will meet interstate standards with access only at interchanges.

It’s a project that has been decades in the making. Planning for transforming Highway 71 into I-49 started in the late 1980s, with construction beginning in the early 1990s and continuing through 2012, when the I-49 project was mostly complete, but construction was halted near Pineville.

The completion of this latest project marks a 5-mile stretch of highway, but the entire Interstate 49 now will stretch 290 miles from Kansas City to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The new bypass is expected to help with traffic safety, flow and congestion. MoDOT engineers estimate about 21,000 vehicles travel daily on that section of Highway 71, and it’s expected to increase to nearly 30,000 vehicles daily in the next two decades.

Highway officials in Arkansas and Louisiana continue working to complete I-49 in their states.

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