Highway 412 map near Harrison



By John Offalé
Radio Free Ozarks Business Reporter
February 17th, 2022

A leaked Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission internal email has revealed the results of the most recent Decadal Survey of Transportation Priorities for Northwest Arkansas. The highly-anticipated survey of area residents is a major factor used to determine funding allocations for regional transportation projects over the next 10 years. Notably, widening U.S. Highway 412 to a 4-lane divided highway between Huntsville and Harrison did not make the top 10 list of projects, with the survey report only noting “Participants stated that they had no need or want to visit Harrison”.

The leaked email, containing the draft survey report, was obtained by Radio Free Ozarks as part of last week’s Tinder data breach. The email reveals several oddities in both the methodology of the survey and the results obtained. The low ranking for the widening of U.S. Highway 412, between the west side of Huntsville and a future junction with U.S. 62 east of Alpena, means that the project will almost certainly not see construction started within the next 12-15 years.

In the summary of the leaked report, James Baegf, Assistant Director at the NARPC, noted that the pandemic had presented some unique challenges in completing the survey. “Our survey demographics in 2021 were a bit constrained due to limited funding and the effects of the pandemic. We were unable to send out a written survey due to our staff not being able to come in to our office. As a backup plan we initiated a focus group session that was obviously limited in the number of participants. But we do thank the Ladies Brunch Club at the Butterfield Retirement Village for their input. We did attempt to include the wait staff in the discussion process, but their grasp of the English language was limited.”

Surprisingly, completion of the Springdale Northern Bypass with airport access only polled at #3 in the focus group. The #2 priority was opening a casino somewhere around Johnson, possibly a riverboat-style casino located on Lake Fayetteville. The focus group, comprised mostly of octogenarian females who were surveyed during brunch at The Tea Room, concluded that the #1 priority for infrastructure in the region is getting Bowen’s Restaurant to reopen in the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

Lake Fayetteville
The NARPC report included several new suggestions for regional infrastructure improvements (NARPC Decadal Survey Draft Report)

“The focus group members did place a high priority on being able to travel to Branson, Missouri for all of its entertainment offerings,” Baegf wrote in the report, “and that would mean shuttle bus traffic driving past Huntsville to reach U.S. 65 going north, but unfortunately state regulations prevent us from considering the economic impact for other states. And this effect likely doesn’t work the other way. As an example, my wife has relatives in Branson, and most of them have never even been to Arkansas. A few people in the focus group even said that they had no plans to visit Branson again now that musician Roy Clark has passed.”

Bowens Reopens
The draft report included a specific recommendation for the Northwest Arkansas Mall (NARPC Decadal Survey Draft Report)

A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Transportation would not comment on the authenticity of the leaked email, but did confirm in a text message that “Further improvements to U.S. Highway 412 between Huntsville and Harrison are no longer an ARDOT priority.”