City celebrates completion of bridge, dedicated bike lane

Bella Vista city staff and officials gathered Wednesday, Nov. 15, with regional and state officials to celebrate the completion of a project nearly a decade in the making.

The city broke ground on the Mercy Way bridge replacement project March 31, 2022, but the large-scale project has been in the works since at least 2015. Following completion, the bridge — which serves as a main arterial street in Bella Vista and is traveled by nearly 8,000 commuters daily — now boasts a safer, expanded four-lane thruway with a dedicated bike and pedestrian lane connecting to and extending north the Razorback Regional Greenway.IMG_0150 - Copy

The project was funded by several local, state and federal entities, including grants from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives Program, the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program-Attributable and the Walton Family Foundation.

The city was responsible for paying less than $100,000 of the $7.6 million total cost of the project, thanks to matching grant programs.

Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission awarded $5.8 million to the city through the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program and partnered with the city to aid in identifying additional funding sources through various federal programs.

A grant from the Walton Family Foundation was awarded for $1.7 million toward bridge project costs, as part of a larger grant that also included funding for the Blowing Springs Greenway project, a paved path from Blowing Springs Park to Metfield Park completed in 2021.

“This is an exciting step forward for Bella Vista,” said Bella Vista Mayor John Flynn. “We are grateful for our continued partnerships with the Walton Family Foundation, ARDOT, Regional Planning Commission and others, which are all helping Bella Vista achieve our goal of enhanced active transportation and safer roadways for all.”

The remarkable residential growth on the east side of Bella Vista was apparent at least a decade ago, causing increased need for an expanded roadway. In addition, the intersection at U.S. 71 and Mercy Way has always been one of the most dangerous in the city, according to Bella Vista Police Department annual statistics, and has now been completely redesigned for safer travel.

The widened roadway and updated intersection allow easier access to the shopping center at Sugar Creek Center, as well as Cooper Elementary and Blowing Springs Park, one of the most frequented destinations in the city.

The extension of the greenway is the beginning of the planned northern extension to Bluebird Park and trailhead on Riordan Road and is currently in the design process.

“We had been trying to figure out how to get the Greenway across Little Sugar Creek for the last 7 or 8 years,” said Erin Rushing, CEO of Trailblazers, noting the expansive floodway in that area that was prohibitive to a trail crossing. “This bridge project gave us the opportunity to get across the creek and connect for future expansion of the Razorback Greenway.”

Manhattan Road & Bridge was the contractor awarded the project, which was designed and engineered by Burns & McDonnell Engineering.