The most obvious upside when the Bella Vista bypass is done will be a safer road for everyone. Anyone who regularly rolls that stretch from Pineville to Bentonville, Arkansas, knows the headaches, and the hazards.
A second upside: It will be a faster run to see our neighbors in Northwest Arkansas and to Interstate 40, and then to places east and west.
Not to be overlooked, however, is what the new highway will mean for economic development in Southwest Missouri. When the bypass is finished, I-49 will be complete from Kansas City to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the fate of Joplin will be tied that much more closely to one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. Everything Northwest Arkansas offers will be that much closer.
The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers-Bentonville metro area is positioned to become — if it hasn't already — one of the 100 largest metro areas in the nation. Another study forecasts 800,000 people will be living in the Northwest Arkansas metro area by 2030, meaning the area is well on its way to a million people.
The bypass will mean more jobs, housing and businesses popping up in McDonald and Newton counties, and most likely Joplin as well, as commuting gets safer and faster.
On Tuesday, Arkansas officials broke ground on their last 2.4-mile stretch of the bypass, taking it to the state line; Missouri will begin work on its last stretch in the spring.
The plan is for I-49 to go straight south out of Pineville, swing to the west of the developed business corridor along the state line as well as Bella Vista, Arkansas, and then turn east near Gravette, connecting back with Interstate 49 at Bentonville. The projected completion date is 2022.
We welcome this news. The bypass will be good for both sides of the lines, and demonstrates the benefits of regional cooperation.