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ArDOT breaks ground on XNA access road project

D. Caruth

Dozens of transportation officials, lawmakers, one former state Governor and others hid from the midday sun under a tent in the short term parking lot just outside of the Northwest Arkansas National Airport last Wednesday for the groundbreaking of a highway project that will make getting to XNA easier.

Philip Taldo, Vice Chairman of the Arkansas Highway Commission, was one of the speakers and credited former Governor Asa Hutchinson for helping to get a permanent extension to the half-cent sales tax that will fund the part of the $310 million dollar project. Taldo said improving the roads to the airport was a long-range project for XNA.

"When we got it built, we knew it wasn’t finished," Taldo said. “And it’s been on the top drawer for some 25 years now.”

According to a report from XNA in March, the airport is on track to surpass 1 million enplanements by the end of this year, and passengers flying out of the airport hit their highest number last year at just over 991,000.

Lorie Tudor, Director of the Department of Transportation, said the construction effort is an important investment in the growing region, where infrastructure improvements are needed to reduce congestion.

"Transportation isn’t just about roads, it’s air travel, it’s river travel, all the things that go into transportation," Tudor said. “We are helping another mode of transportation that is so important for an area that is big and vibrant.”

ARDOT spokesperson Dave Parker said the two construction projects will make air travel easier and more accessible for travelers.

"Any time you can help an area that’s thriving, growing" Parker said. “You know people going to and from the airport are going to be happier and not have to worry so much about missing a flight… that’s a good feeling.”

The first project is the seven-mile Springdale bypass. It will be a four-lane divided interstate that links Highway 412 in Tontitown with Highway 112 in Washington and Benton counties and is expected to be complete by late 2026.

The second is the XNA connector, which will stretch four miles between the airport and the Springdale bypass. The connector will include 11 bridges, an interchange at the project's south end, and a tie-in to Highway 264.

"Both of these projects represent a total cost of $410 million," Tudor said. “Of that is right-of-way, design and construction. Construction is $310 million.”

Tudor added that the full access road will eventually span 21 miles and cost $1 billion.

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline by reporters. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

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Daniel Caruth is KUAF's Morning Edition host and reporter for Ozarks at Large<i>.</i>
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