Fayetteville wants feedback on improving U.S. Highway 71B

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,374 views 

The city of Fayetteville is seeking public comments on a plan to improve a 4-mile segment of U.S. Highway 71B through the city.

Since through-traffic has shifted to Interstate 49, the city has looked to rethink the future of the 71B corridor with the goal to create safe travel for vehicles, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians. The plan is to develop a vision for the corridor and make it become a reality, said Garner Stoll, director of development services for the city. Also, the plan might include rezoning properties along the corridor.

“There are not absolute boundaries at this point,” he said. They will be included as part of the final draft of the plan, which is expected to be presented to the Fayetteville City Council next summer. A 28-person steering committee is working on the plan, and will have focus group input sessions after the city takes public comments.

The city will host two public meetings to receive feedback on the plan, from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 12 and Sept. 13. The Sept. 12 event will be at Ozark Natural Foods Community Room at 1554 N. College Ave. and the Sept. 13 meeting will be at the AT&T Conference Room at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, 535 W. Research Center Boulevard. The events will follow a similar format and include a panel discussion on the history of the highway, solutions from other cities and a public input opportunity.

The city is studying two areas of the 71B corridor: between North Street and northern city limits near Lake Fayetteville and between Rock Street and Cato Springs Road. Plan opportunities include to enhance the city’s economic vitality, expand the tax base, increase housing supply and choices, improve transportation, create a more walkable city and develop a more attractive corridor. The goal is to develop a vision for the corridor to unite businesses and property owners and identify steps to reach the goal.

The plan is expected to include a budget for the improvements that would be completed. Money from the mayor’s bond issue for next year could be allocated for the plan, Stoll said. However, the city is not expected to be able to pay for everything in the plan with the bond issue. As part of the planning process, the city will determine the parts of the plan on which to put priority.

In July, the city hired consultant RDG of Omaha, Neb., to help with the plan. The urban planning and design firm will take part in the planning process through completion next summer. As part of the $153,066 contract with the city, RDG will include engineering firm Garver and economists Gruen Gruen + Associates in the process.

Work on the plan started this summer and is expected to be completed next summer. A survey and more information on the 71B corridor plan is available here.

Recently, a group that focused on 2.2-mile segment of Highway 71B in Fayetteville looked at improving the health of those who use the corridor. The Healthy Corridors committee, which was supported by a $10,000 Healthy Corridors grant from the Urban Land Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, helped the group to achieve the goal.