The Arkansas Department of Transportation has scrapped two proposed designs for the Interstate 49 interchange at U.S. Highway 62, or Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in Fayetteville after receiving comments from businesses, residents and the city on the proposals. Instead, ArDOT plans to build a single-point urban interchange (SPUI) there.
On Thursday (April 26), ArDOT hosted a public hearing to receive feedback on the SPUI design.
In September, the highway department hosted a public hearing on the previously proposed designs for the Fayetteville interchange, and based on the feedback received in and after the meeting, ArDOT opted to change the design to a SPUI.
When asked why those designs were thrown out, Straessle said they required the purchase of too much right of way and would have impacted too many businesses. For example, the loop design would have required the removal of six buildings, and that cost alone was projected at about $10 million. The flyover design wouldn’t have required removal of any businesses but would’ve restricted access for motorists looking to cross Highway 62 as the flyover would start at the center of the highway, west of I-49.
A single-point urban interchange is expected to have less of an impact Compared to a traditional diamond interchange, which often has two traffic signals controlling traffic, a SPUI will allow one signal to control the flow of traffic coming from both exit ramps, along with the through traffic.
In 2016, the highway department announced it would build one of these interchanges at Exit 85, which spans Rogers and Bentonville. The $20 million to $30 million project is expected to go to bid by the end of 2018 and work should start in early 2019. If it starts then, construction should be completed in the first quarter of 2021. Other SPUIs are planned for North Rodney Parham and Cantrell roads in Little Rock, and along I-49, north of Bentonville, for the Bella Vista Bypass or Arkansas/Missouri Connector. Construction of the latter depends on when Missouri completes its segment of I-49 to the Arkansas state line.
Money from the Interstate Rehabilitation Program will pay for the Fayetteville interchange project. In November 2011, Arkansas voters approved the program allowing ArDOT to issue up to $575 million in bonds to improve and repair existing interstates. The proposed cost for the interchange is between $20 million and $30 million with work starting in 2021.
Faye Jones of Fayetteville said she was concerned about the timeline of the project as it’s needed now. Fayetteville attorney Ken Mourton, who represents the property owner for the former Clarion Inn there, said he was concerned about the two lane road in front of the property becoming a one-way road. The road would become the ramp for the southbound traffic onto I-49.
Plans show two roundabouts. One of the roundabouts would be south of Highway 62, and the exit ramp for northbound I-49 traffic would lead into the roundabout. It would allow motorists to turn right to reach 18th Street, which leads to Baum Stadium on 15th Street, or continue north in order to reach Highway 62.
The second roundabout would be at Arkansas Highway 265, or Cato Springs Road, south of the existing two-way road that would be converted to one way. The project also will include a median along Martin Luther King Boulevard, between South Oak Road and just east of I-49. The median is required to restrict left turns along the stretch when a road is wider than three lanes in one direction. Motorists will have three lanes in which to turn left to go north on I-49, and they will have two turn lanes to turn left to go south on the interstate.
“Because it’s a very complex design, some folks may say, ‘This looks really complicated. I would have concerns about navigating an interchange that’s this complex.’ Well, it’s a lot easier to navigate than it looks on paper,” Straessle said. “We’ll have plenty of signage. There’s one stoplight. There’s two stoplights now. That will really help traffic flow when this gets constructed.”
Design for the SPUI is conceptual. Straessle said another public hearing on the interchange project is not expected as it will have less of an impact on the area compared to the previously proposed designs.