Street advisory committee approves Fort Smith’s $133 million capital improvement plan

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com) 976 views 

The Fort Smith capital improvement plan (CIP) advisory committee for streets, bridges, and associated drainage approved a $133 million 5-year CIP starting in 2018 with a $29.9 million spend. The committee reached its unanimous decision on Thursday (Sept. 28) at the group’s regular meeting, pushing the plan through to the city Board of Directors’ Oct. 24 study session.

The Board would likely consider final approval on Oct. 31, giving the engineering department the go-ahead to include in its proposed budget for next year.

Near the top of the list was a $5.63 million spend for the work at Jenny Lind Road from Zero Street to Cavanaugh. The project is expected to conclude in 2018. Its total capital outlay for 2017 is projected to close at $12.405 million. The largest line item for next year will be citywide neighborhood drainage improvements totaling $8.378 million. Street overlays and reconstruction will command $4.693 million of the overall total, and from that figure, the largest project will be a resurfacing of Wells Lake Road to help support traffic at the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE), ArcBest, and residential developments located at Chaffee Crossing in the eastern portion of the city.

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) has agreed to share costs on the project, which is listed as $1.448 million, “a conservative estimate,” said Fort Smith Engineering Department Director Stan Snodgrass. While Snodgrass expects the project to come in under the projected amount, using the numbers as presented would likely result in an expense of approximately $724,000 each from city street funds and the FCRA. The committee asked for a 50% split at a meeting on Aug. 31, and while the Chaffee group still has to approve it, FCRA Executive Director Ivy Owen indicated to Talk Business & Politics at the past meeting that the group was willing.

Wells Lake Road touched off a mini-furor among CIP commissioners, the FCRA, and Chaffee Crossing developers in early August when it was suggested by commissioner David Armbruster that Chaffee Crossing “put the brakes” on its speed of development.

Private developer Rod Coleman of ERC Holdings, ACHE President and CEO Kyle Parker, and representatives from ArcBest made the case that an influx of traffic over the next few years would call for the widening of Wells Lake. A subsequent traffic count by the engineering department found there wasn’t a current traffic problem, but acknowledged the road’s condition was worsening, thus leading to the Aug. 31 compromise.

Other notable projects include the widening of Highway 45 between Highways 255 and 71. The project will include installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 45 and Planters Road. Total cost on the city’s side will be $4 million counting a $700,000 allocation for this year and a $3.3 million spend in 2020. The project will be a collaboration between the city, Sebastian County, and the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Also, the Propelling Downtown Forward plan will get a boost when the city tackles the North B Street truck route from 5th Street west to Riverfront Drive to accommodate two-way truck traffic. The project is based on the concept of closing and removing sections of North A Street and Belle Point Place to add more green space. The project is on hold pending completion of a downtown traffic impact study to be completed in 2018 by 64.6 Downtown and the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization. The projected cost will be $1.744 million and should be completed by the end of 2019.

The next meeting of the CIP advisory committee will be held on Nov. 30.

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