Fort Smith officials seek funding for downtown ‘truck and traffic’ study

by Aric Mitchell (amitchell@talkbusiness.net) 290 views 

Members of the Central Business Improvement District (CBID) on Tuesday (May 15) discussed a planned $160,000 truck and traffic study for downtown Fort Smith. This time, the emphasis was on a more all-encompassing objective in relation to large truck traffic, which has frequently been a frustration for the downtown development group.

CBID commissioner Rodney Ghan of R.H. Ghan & Cooper Commercial Properties said it was “important to know this is not just about trucks. It’s about a whole bunch of things — walkability, car traffic. I don’t want us to think we’re picking on the trucks.”

Ghan continued: “We’re trying to identify our needs as a downtown for good traffic flow. That’s all we’re trying to do. Now the trucks are a part of that, but not all of that. It’s not all trucks. It’s the traffic as a whole. How do we redirect it for the future of downtown?”

Commissioner Sam T. Sicard, president and CEO of First National Bank of Fort Smith, said his concerns went beyond truck traffic to speeding.

“It’s not specific to trucks. I’ve had several of our employees hit over the years, and frankly, it’s not been by a big truck. Thank God. It’s been by people speeding and running through red lights; turning and not looking. It’s a lot bigger issue.”

Ghan and commissioner Bill Hanna of Hanna Oil & Gas have served on the selection team for finding a contractor to conduct the truck and traffic study along with Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken, Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman, and Engineering Director Stan Snodgrass. The city will fund the study, and it already has $100,000 set aside in the budget to do so. Geffken told Talk Business & Politics he is reaching out to the private sector for the remainder, but there hasn’t yet been an agreement.

According to Reese Brewer, director of the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization — facilitators of the study and public meetings to come — the study could be finished in six months once the funding issue is resolved.

“It’s pretty quick-moving. Most larger freight mobility studies tend to take up to two years, but the contractor will only be doing the data collection piece, so it should go relatively quickly. It’s the analysis and the alternative development scenarios that take a little more time, and then you need to reach out to the public and get their input as well.”

While a contract is not in place, the city received a proposal from Little Rock-based Halff Associates. Halff hopes to have the study completed by December. Brewer said Halff will look at previous plans, including the 64.6/Gateway Planning study finalized in 2017.

“They will also work with the various stakeholders, including 64.6, the city, ArDOT (the Arkansas Department of Transportation), and individuals with an interest in that area as well as connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Possible solutions could include increased or adjusted traffic signalization, alternative routes, or a “short, medium, and long-term phased-in” approach.

“There probably won’t be an entire solution that satisfies everyone, but there will likely be compromises along the way,” Brewer said.

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