Planners seek comment on Northwest Arkansas four-year transportation plan

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,762 views 

Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission will take comments on proposed transportation projects planned in the region for federal fiscal years 2019-22 between Friday (July 6) and 5 p.m. July 19. Residents also can comment on the proposed transportation projects across the state for federal fiscal years 2019-22 through July 25.

Regional transportation projects included by metropolitan planning organizations, such as the planning commission, are in the statewide plan. Other planning organizations, including those in Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Little Rock, are in areas with at least a population of 50,000 and have their projects included in the statewide plan as well.

On Thursday (July 5), planning commission staff hosted a public hearing seeking comment on the proposed Northwest Arkansas Regional Transportation Study, Transportation Improvement Program. The hearing was required before the plan comes before the commission for a vote at 1:30 p.m. July 25.

Planning commission staff developed the plan along with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Missouri Department of Transportation. Projects in the plan are those that are eligible to receive federal funding, and the plan must be approved by the planning commission before it can be approved by the state transportation departments, said Tim Conklin, transportation programs manager for the commission.

Conklin said some of the key projects in the plan include the widening to four lanes of Arkansas Highway 112, between Bentonville and Fayetteville; purchasing right of way for the U.S. Highway 412 bypass segment, between Highway 112 and U.S. Highway 412, west of Tontitown; and the addition of passing lanes on Arkansas Highway 59, between Gentry and Gravette. The 17.91-mile Highway 112 project is expected to cost $37.6 million, 6.17 miles of right of way is expected to cost $15 million and the 11.09-mile passing lane project is expected to cost $10 million.

Other projects include the proposed access road to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) and Interstate 49 interchange improvements at Arkansas Highway 16 and U.S. Highway 62, both in Fayetteville. The 3.6-mile access road is projected to cost $30 million and the interchange projects are expected to cost $19.3 million and $25.4 million, respectively.

Nearly $87 million in projects are contingent on Missouri completing its portion of the 18.9-mile Arkansas/Missouri Connector, or the Bella Vista Bypass, and they will be delayed until funding is identified for the project. Those delayed projects are the I-49 interchange improvement at the start of the connector in north Bentonville and a 2.56-mile stretch of the connector in Arkansas, between Benton County Road 34 and the state line. The interchange at the connector is expected to cost $51.4 million, and the 2.56-mile stretch of the connector is projected to cost $35.2 million.

Historically, the planning commission updated its four-year Transportation Improvement Program every four years, but it previously updated it two years ago, said Conklin, adding that the plan is slated to be updated annually.

Some residents who attended the public hearing July 5 hoped to speak to state transportation officials, and another provided comment on projects related to his properties but declined to provide a name.

John Leflar, who lives north of Bentonville, described the hazards motorcycle riders face riding through construction zones and said road construction has led to many hazards that a typical motorist might not be aware of such as the ruts in I-49 from white striping that has been removed, creating traps from motorcycles; the white striping across the road at intersections causing slippery surfaces; construction debris along shoulders and the dangers of rumble strips.

Click here to view or comment on the draft statewide plan.

Click here to view a PDF draft of the Northwest Arkansas plan.