ASU receives $500,000 grant to improve sidewalks and bicycle paths

by George Jared ([email protected]) 220 views 

Pedestrians on foot and riding bikes will have an easier time traversing across Arkansas State University in the near future.

Arkansas State University received a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to improve sidewalks and bicycle lanes on campus, according to the university. The new proposed path will start on the western side of the campus and loop along several ongoing construction projects until it reaches the heart of the campus. It will end in the northeast quadrant of the campus.

“We are excited to receive this grant as it will begin work on the construction of the campus loop trail,” ASU campus planning director Bill Hall said. “The construction limits of the project will be determined during the design phase which will begin soon.”

The grant is part of AHTD’s federally funded Transportation Alternatives Program. The grant is an 80/20 match meaning the university will have to fund $100,000 towards the project.

ASU began a program to build better pedestrian pathways on the campus in 2014. Since then about eight miles of multi-use pathways have been constructed, according to the school.

One benefit is that the new pathways better connect the college campus with the rest of Jonesboro, ASU Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Dr. Bill Smith said. ASU, the University of Arkansas, Arkansas Pine Bluff, and Southern Arkansas University received grants through this program this year. ASU received the largest of the grants awarded this year, according to the school.

It’s the latest attempt to better connect the university and the city of Jonesboro.

City officials hope to build a corridor from Riceland Foods to the ASU campus. The proposed trail will follow along an old railroad line. The city is seeking a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pay for environmental studies, project cost projections, and other essentials to get the project off the ground.

Mayor Harold Perrin previously told Talk Business & Politics the trail will cost millions to build, but it could be a key tool in revitalizing northern Jonesboro, one of the economically poorest sectors in the Jonesboro metro area. The exact length of he trail and costs can’t be determined until the studies are completed, Perrin said. The trail is referred to as the FY2017 Brownsfield Area Wide Planning Grant in applications. It will take years to build it if a feasible plan can be developed, the mayor said.

Foot traffic to and from the college will spur economic growth in this section of the city, he said.