Those last few miles of the Bella Vista Bypass surely qualify as the longest road in the country, in that it has taken so long to travel.
Decades, in fact.
That said, we made it.
On Thursday, Missouri and Arkansas officials opened the long-awaited and oft-delayed bypass.
Also known as the I-49 Missouri-Arkansas Connector, it heads straight south out of Pineville and circles around to the south side of Bella Vista, making travel between the Joplin metro area and the Northwest Arkansas metro area that much faster, safer and more efficient. The bypass avoids the congestion, headaches and hazards that were the last few miles of the highway in Missouri and the first few miles in Arkansas.
The bypass links Southwest Missouri to one of the fastest-growing regions in the country and is sure to propel additional economic and community development in our corner of the state. That will mean more jobs, increased tax revenue and easier access in both states to everything the other offers.
We’ve compared the effort to build the bypass to an on-again, off-again courtship. At one time, Missouri was ready (meaning we had the money for our piece of the bypass) but Arkansas wasn’t (meaning they didn’t). Missouri moved on (spending that money elsewhere), but then Arkansas came a-courting (with a grant for part of the work that Missouri couldn’t resist). The marriage was on, and on Thursday, it was official. You may now kiss the bride. ...
Our thanks to all those on both sides of the state line who kept their focus on getting this done, for their persistence and for their willingness to work together.
Chambers, businesses, regional development initiatives and communities up and down the I-49 corridor and throughout the region as well as both state’s highway departments and politicians pulled together on this. This project happened because everyone across two states and numerous counties and cities got onboard. It begs the question: What else can we accomplish when we work together?
Although a long time coming, we believe the bypass is just a beginning.