Interstate 49 is an Interstate Highway in the U.S. state of Arkansas. The highway is to form a north-south route through the west of the state, from the Louisiana border at Doddridge to the Missouri border at Bella Vista. The highway serves the cities of Texarkana, DeQueen, Fort Smith, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville. The planned length is approximately 500 kilometers.
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I-49 begins at the Louisiana state border, where Interstate 49 enters Louisiana from Shreveport. The highway has 2×2 lanes and heads north through the woods, parallel to the Red River. The highway leads through flat terrain with quite a lot of forest, but partly also some meadows. After about 50 kilometers you reach Texarkana, of which I-49 forms the eastern ring road. A small portion of the Texarkana ring road has 2×3 lanes, but the majority has 2×2 lanes. On the east side of Texarkana, it interchanges with Interstate 30, I-49 then branches west and ends at US 71 on the north side of Texarkana, on the border with the state of Texas.
I-49 at Johnson.
The second part starts a lot further north as an incomplete bypass of the city of Fort Smith. The highway here has 2×2 lanes and leads over the grounds of the army base Fort Chaffee. I-49 runs along the edge of Fort Smith here, through traffic uses Interstate 540, as I-49 is not yet crossing the Arkansas River.
The third section begins further north at the village of Alma at an interchange with Interstate 40, just outside Fort Smith. Here too, the highway has 2×2 lanes and heads north through hilly terrain. The highway has a few higher viaducts and a short tunnel. One then reaches the row of towns in Northwest Arkansas. The highway has 2×3 lanes along Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers. The region has no urban highway network, I-49 is the only freeway through the region. I-49 then forms a bypass of the hill country via the west, the so-called Bella Vista Bypass. At the Missouri border, the route merges into Interstate 49 in Missouri toward Joplin and Kansas City.
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Louisiana – Texarkana
The oldest portion of I-49 today is the Texarkana East Bypass, which was commissioned in 1977-1979. The section opened in 1977 was bypassed in 2013 by a new route, the old section is now the Four States Fair Parkway.
In 2001, a portion of the Texarkana bypass, which is now numbered State Route 245, opened. In 2012, its extension to I-30 on the east side of Texarkana opened. In 2004-2005, much of State Route 549 opened between Doddridge and Texarkana. On May 13, 2013, a 15-mile section opened along the northeast side of Texarkana. On November 10, 2014, the southernmost 7 kilometers between the Louisiana and Doddridge border opened. This completed the Interstate Highway between Shreveport and Texarkana.
In Northwest Arkansas, I-49 originated on the freeway that would replace US 71 in the urban areas of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville. The oldest part of this is the Fayetteville Bypass, which opened in 1983. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the highway was extended in stages north to the north side of Bentonville.
In the 1990s, the highway between I-40 at Alma and the south side of Fayetteville was opened in two phases in 1995 and 1999. On January 8, 1999, this formally became part of Interstate 540, which was extended over the existing US 71 freeway to the north side of Bentonville. In April-May 2014, I-540 between Alma and Bella Vista was renumbered to I-49.
Finally, a bypass of Bella Vista in the far north of Arkansas has been constructed. This project was initially constructed partly as a super two after years of planning and has been temporarily numbered as State Route 549 in Arkansas. Construction began on October 15, 2019, its final phase all the way to the Missouri border. As part of this, the entire SR-549 was also widened to 2×2 lanes, so that it could also receive the status of I-49. This part was opened to traffic on September 30, 2021. This solved one of the most prominent missing links of the Interstate Highway system in the United States.
Between 2009 and 2015, a segment was constructed through the southeast of Fort Smith over a former military base, which will not connect to other highways for the time being. An additional bridge over the Arkansas River is required to connect this section to I-40. So I-49 will not be routed over the existing I-540 past Fort Smith, but will run further east. This section of 10 kilometers was opened on 14 July 2015.
|US 82 / 9th Street Texarkana||Arkansas Blvd (Texarkana)||2 km||1979|
|Exit 60 Fayetteville (South)||Exit 67 Fulbright Expressway||11 km||1983|
|Exit 67 Fulbright Expressway||Exit 72 US 412 (Springdale)||8 km||1985|
|Exit 72 US 412 (Springdale)||Exit 78 Lowell||10 km||1986|
|Exit 78 Lowell||Exit 85 Bentonville (South)||11 km||1987|
|Exit 85 Bentonville (South)||Exit 86 Bentonville (SR-102)||2 km||1990|
|Exit 86 Bentonville (SR-102)||Exit 93 Bentonville (north)||11 km||1992|
|Exit 20 I-40 (Alma)||Exit 29 Mountainburg||14 km||00-08-1995|
|Exit 29 Mountainburg||Exit 60 Fayetteville (South)||51 km||08-01-1999|
|SR-245||19th Street, Texas||6 km||00-00-2001|
|Arkansas Blvd (Texarkana)||US 59 / US 71 (Texarkana)||15 km||15-05-2013|
|Louisiana state line||doddridge||7 km||10-11-2014|
|US 71 (Fort Smith)||AR-22 Fort Street (Fort Smith)||10 km||14-07-2015|
|Exit 93 Bentonville (north)||Missouri state line||22 km||30-09-2021|
The Northwest Arkansas (NWA) region, which includes the cities of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville, is growing rapidly and traffic on I-49 in this region has increased significantly. Therefore, parts of I-49 have been widened to 2×3 lanes in this conurbation. In early 2014, the first short 2×3 lane section opened between the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Wedington Drive in Fayetteville. On November 7, 2014, 2×3 lanes opened between Wagon Wheel Road and Lowell for about 3 miles on the north side of Springdale. On November 3, 2016, 2×3 lanes opened between the Fulbright Expressway and Wagon Wheel Road. At the end of 2017, the widening was completed further to Hudson in Rogers. This completed the widening along the cities in Northwest Arkansas.
It is not yet clear when the middle section from Texarkana to Fort Smith will be constructed. This section runs north of Texarkana a short distance through Texas. In 2018, it was concluded that tolls would not be cost-effective as a method of financing I-49 between Fort Smith and Alma, with a new bridge over the Arkansas River. The cost was estimated at $776 million at the time.