GARLAND COUNTY, Ark. – Drivers in the north part of Garland County now have a scenic and time-saving alternative.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation said it had opened an extension of the Hot Springs Bypass on Monday. The newly opened highway connects Highway 70 East to Highway 7 North and will be marked as Highway 5, ARDOT officials said.

Officials said the new bypass will improve safety by removing Highway 7 through traffic. ARDOT director Lorie Tudor said it would also shorten travel time for those in the north part of the county.

“This new bypass will significantly reduce the travel time to and from Hot Springs Village, Fountain Lake, and other areas north of Hot Springs,” Tudor said. “There are a number of challenges when it comes to constructing new location roads, especially in the middle of the Ouachita Mountains; we were able to overcome those challenges and complete this important arterial connection for the growing population of Garland County.”

The new bypass was designated as scenic by the Arkansas legislature due to its steep and tree-lined vistas through the Ouachita Mountains.

Work began on the bypass in 2019 after being awarded to Little Rock-based McGeorge Contracting Company for $75.2 million. Garland County contributed $30 million in a partnering agreement with ARDOT.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the bypass is planned for Oct. 24, with details still to be determined.