NWA planners to narrow down $22 million in funding requests for road projects

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 639 views 

Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission received $22.155 million in funding requests for 14 transportation projects throughout the region but only has about $7.2 million to divvy.

The planning commission recently sought applications for its Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, but whether the funding will be available depends on if Congress approves it. Historically, the funding has been available through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and has required a 20% match to receive it. The amount available for 2019 is the same amount sought for 2018.

Tim Conklin, transportation programs manager for the commission, said the planning commission will narrow down the funding requests and determine which will receive funding over the next two months. A planning commission committee will make recommendations on the projects before they are sent to the full planning commission for a final decision.

The funding would be for the 2019 federal fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, 2018. Projects that were selected for funding in the 2018 fiscal year were automatically considered for funding in fiscal 2019. Previously, applicants for existing projects had to reapply to be considered again.

Some of the 2019 funding requests include $4.4 million for utilities and right of way for J.B. Hunt Road, between Pauline Whitaker Parkway and Bellview Road, in Rogers; $4.23 million for utilities and right of way for the 56th Street extension, between Don Tyson Parkway and Johnson Mill Road, in Springdale and Johnson; $4 million for the Highway 170 construction project in Farmington; $3 million for the construction of the Exit 85 interchange at Interstate 49 and Walnut Street and Walton Boulevard in Rogers and Bentonville; and $2 million for the construction of Eighth Street in Bentonville.

The J.B. Hunt Road and Highway 170 projects were approved for funding in 2018. Also, the South Dixieland Road extension project in Lowell was approved in 2018, and the 2019 funding request list shows a $1.24 million request for the project.

The 14 projects have a required match of $8.514 million, and combined with the funding requests, have a total amount of $30.669 million. Along with the road projects, applicants also requested $1.43 million for four trail construction projects, which combined with a $477,504 match, have a total amount of $1.864 million.

“All of the ‘19 funding about two-thirds of the ‘18 funding is subject to Congress doing their job,” said Jeff Hawkins, executive director for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.

One of the listed projects that isn’t a road or trail project is a $760,000 request for bus fleet replacement for Ozark Regional Transit and Razorback Transit.

Springdale-based transit provider ORT is looking to replace its existing bus fleet after a January 2017 fire destroyed 20 buses. The transit provider has been operating on borrowed or leased buses to maintain its routes. Recently, ORT received seven of the eight buses it ordered to start replacing its destroyed fleet, said Joel Gardner, executive director for ORT.

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