NWA planning commission seeks applications for $7.2 million in federal funding for road projects

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 344 views 

Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission is seeking grant applications for $7.2 million in federal funding for city road projects in Northwest Arkansas. The funding would be for the 2019 federal fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, 2018.

Deadline to apply for the funding from the commission’s Surface Transportation Block Grant Program is 4 p.m. Jan. 17, and whether the funding will be available depends on if Congress approves it. In previous years, the funding has been made available through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and has required a 20% match to receive it. The amount available for the 2019 fiscal year is the same amount sought for the previous fiscal year.

Projects that have been selected for the funding but have yet to be completed will be considered for the 2019 fiscal year, said Tim Conklin, transportation programs manager for the commission. Applicants for 12 projects, which are in various stages of construction and design, won’t have to reapply for funding for these projects. Previously, applicants for existing projects had to reapply to be considered again for funding in the following fiscal year.

Some of the projects include the $70 million Eighth Street widening and interchange in Bentonville; the $17.5 million extension of 56th Street, from Springdale to Johnson; and a $19 million improvement of Walnut Street, between Dixieland Road and Eighth Street, in Rogers. In all, the 12 projects are expected to cost $144.7 million.

Between federal fiscal years 2013 and 2018, the 12 projects have received $17.887 million in federal funding from the commission’s block grant program, and along with area matching funds of $4.471 million, the projects have received a total of $22.359 million.

Also, Conklin said $900,000 in funding will be carried over for four projects. Historically, funding wasn’t carried over into the next fiscal year. The commission also oversees $490,000 in federal funding for trails and requires a 20% match, like the grant program for roads.

When cities apply for the grant for roads, they will be asked to show the project’s existing stage of construction or design, a timeline to completion and other funding sources.

“Some of these projects are very large and expensive,” Conklin said. “We certainly don’t have enough funding to complete these multi-million dollar projects, even the 12 on the list. It would take 15 years to do that.”

Applications for the funding are available on the planning commission’s website.

In other business, the commission approved safety targets that were suggested by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. Paul Simms, metropolitan planning coordinator for ArDOT, showed safety targets for fatalities and serious injuries for 2018. The targets will be set annually, and for 2018, the targets are 555 fatalities and 3,470 serious injuries. In comparison, Missouri Department of Transportation’s targets are 857.7 fatalities and 4,559.3 serious injuries.

The state agencies could face penalties if they don’t meet the targets, Simms said. Between 2010 and 2014, Arkansas had more than 2,600 roadway fatalities, and more than 1,000 people who died weren’t wearing seatbelts. The targets were based on historical averages of fatalities and injuries in Arkansas. Between 2011 and 2015, the average number of fatalities were 521, down from 555, between 2009 and 2013. Conklin said the safety targets could be used to determine how transportation funding is allocated in order to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries.

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