Drivers finally have an easier way to get from College Avenue to Interstate 49 and the businesses around the Northwest Arkansas Mall.
After 17 months of construction and years of discussion and planning, the long-awaited flyover bridge opened Wednesday in north Fayetteville.
Over 100 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony held atop the new bridge near the exit ramp by Olive Garden.
Key speakers included senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman, who along with former Senator Blanche Lincoln, procured a federal earmark to help pay for the project in 2005.
Others speaking at the event included Congressman Steve Womack, Arkansas State Highway Commissioner Dick Trammel, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Chamber of Commerce President Steve Clark and Ward 3 Alderman Justin Tennant.
The new bridge provides drivers with an alternate route when headed north on College Avenue. Instead of making a U-turn at Joyce Boulevard to access the Fulbright Expressway, motorists can veer left onto the flyover bridge just north of Millsap Road for instant access to the expressway and Interstate 49. And instead of waiting in long lines to turn left on Joyce into the business district by the mall, drivers can use the flyover to exit directly onto Mall Avenue.
The $6.3 million bridge was designed by Jacobs Engineering Group of Fayetteville and constructed by Emery Sapp & Sons of Columbia, Mo. Federal funds paid for about 80 percent of the project, with the remaining funds coming from a $65 million transportation bond program approved by Fayetteville voters in 2006.
The flyover is one of three projects in the Fayetteville Expressway Economic Development Corridor plan, which also includes a completed roundabout at Futrall Drive and Northhills Boulevard, and an upcoming extension of Van Asche Drive between Gregg and Garland avenues.
The three projects are designed to help stimulate business growth in north Fayetteville, including the many undeveloped lots near the mall.
Clark said the work is already paying off, and mentioned a groundbreaking ceremony set for next month at the site of a planned Whole Foods Market on College Avenue near the entrance of the new flyover.
“They’re coming because of this project,” said Clark.
Final paving of the roundabout was completed in March 2013. Work on the Van Asche Drive extension has already begun, and should be completed within about a year.
Officials said although the flyover is now open to traffic, crews have about a week’s worth of work remaining on the site, including some minor exterior painting and wiring of the new streetlights atop the bridge.