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— The message delivered over and over again last Thursday was that for those wondering if the Bella Vista bypass will ever by built, be patient - it is coming.

More than 100 people - including federal, state and locally elected officials, political appointees, businessmen and women and educators - attended a luncheon at the Bella Vista Country Club to hear the latest on the highway.

Those in attendance not only heard an update on the highway, which is a joint venture between Arkansas and Missouri, they also heard how officials play to pay for the project.

The nearly 19-mile-long section of road - 14.1 miles in Benton County, the remainder in McDonald County, MO - is what is called a valuable link along Interstate 49, which will eventually run from Canada to Mexico.

Plans show the road tying into U.S. Highway 71 south of Pineville, MO, bypassing BellaVista on the west and rejoining U.S. 71 in northern Bentonville.

Arkansas' share of the project is estimated at $267.6 million and Missouri's at 66.3 million.

According to one official, Arkansas has approximately $50 million on hand, whereas Missouri has nearly all of its share.

Beyond that money, funding is expected to come from federal grants, revenue bonds, federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funds, tolls and state funding. Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department commissioners voted Aug. 19 to approve the toll road idea.

As for making the bypass a toll road, AHTD Commissioner Carl Rosenbaum said, "If we can't toll it.....we can't build it."

While the road has been talked about for decades, it looks as though it will soon become a reality.

According to Dan Flowers, director of the AHTD, state officials will apply for part of more than $1.5 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money.

News, Pages 7 on 08/26/2009

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