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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK The terminal and front entrance is visible Friday, June 22, 2018, at the Northwest Arkansas Regioinal Airport in Highfill. The 20-year-old terminal building at the Northwest Arkansas Regioinal Airport will be getting a makeover in the next couple of years. Board members on Wednesday had in an informal input session with engineers and architects to give them a general idea of what they'd like the terminal to look like after the planned renovation and expansion. The work should result in a new front door for the terminal including a new building across the loop drive from the main terminal and a second-floor bridge into what is now the front of the terminal.

HIGHFILL -- Proposed options for a road between the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and the Springdale Northern Bypass will be shared Tuesday with the public.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation meeting in Rogers will be an open house format with no formal presentations. The public is invited to visit anytime during the three hours to view exhibits, ask questions and offer comments.

XNA Access road public meeting

When: 4-7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Trinity Grace Church, 5845 S. Bellview Road, Rogers.

For those unable to attend, submit questions or comments anytime to the project team via email PublicInvolvement@GarverUSA.com.

Source: ARDOT

Aaron Burkes, CEO at the airport, said he looks forward to showcasing the three alternatives.

"The new XNA connector road is critical to providing safe, reliable and efficient access to the airport for our passengers," Burkes said. "The public involvement meeting provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to see the options being considered and to weigh in and guide the best possible route selection."

An improved connection from Interstate 49 to XNA has been identified as a priority project of regional significance for more than 20 years and is part of the region's 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, according to Tim Conklin, at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.

In 1998, Congress enacted the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century and identified an intermodal connector access road to the airport as a high priority project, Conklin said. Intermodal connectors are public highways linking the nation's ports, rail and truck terminals, airports and passenger transit terminals to the National Highway System.

"Existing access from I-49 to XNA is not adequate and does not provide the level of reliability, mobility, economic development potential, and safety for travelers and freight going to and from XNA and I-49," Conklin said. "The current southern access from I-49 to XNA has been closed several times this year for many hours and days due to flooding, and recently the tornado."

The state Transportation Department contracted earlier this year with Garver Engineering to do an environmental assessment for a connector road. The scope of work includes road and bridge design plans.

The Transportation Department in June offered to design the access road. Airport officials accepted the offer, saying it will speed the process of getting the road done, after some 20 years of frustration.

Garver will evaluate several alignment alternatives. They range from building a road on a new route to improving highways, including Arkansas 112 and Arkansas 264, to a combination of both.

Tim House, director of engineering and construction at XNA, said the focus has narrowed to a 4-mile area between the airport and Arkansas 112. The road will likely serve more of western Benton County than just the airport, he said.

The original plan was to have the airport authority build and pay for a long driveway to the airport from U.S. 612 at Elm Springs. That plan was shelved in favor of having a road run near XNA that could end up being a highway around the airport with an exit.

Bill McAbee with Garver told airport officials in October he hopes a preferred route can be selected by June 2020 and at least 60% of the design work done by July 2021. Then, right-of-way acquisition could begin. Bids could go out by the spring of 2022, if all goes well, McAbee said. Construction would likely take 24 to 30 months.

The Federal Highway Administration will make the final call on a route, McAbee said.

Burkes said he expects the project to be paid for using money from a second Connecting Arkansas Program. Voters will be asked next November to approve extending taxes for future road projects.

"They've identified it on the first list of projects that will be funded with CAP II," Burkes said. "So, we think that this will be funded but the funding will be contingent upon the passage of the sales tax referendum next November."

The program is one of the largest highway construction programs undertaken by the state. In 2012, voters approved a constitutional amendment for a 10-year, half-cent sales tax for projects to widen and improve 200 miles of highways and interstates. The original program will sunset in 2022, if not extended by voters.

NW News on 12/01/2019

Print Headline: Proposed routes for road to XNA unveiled

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