The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved a resolution Tuesday (Oct. 1) that will make part of Towson Avenue a city street. The resolution provides for a partnership between the city and the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The project will rehabilitate four miles of Towson Avenue (Highway 71B) between Garrison Avenue (Highway 64) and Zero Street (Highway 255).
According to a memo regarding the ordinance from Stan Snodgrass, director of engineering, the project will include “upgrading the drainage system to current standards, replacement of the curb/guttering and driveway approaches, installation of sidewalks and pavement improvements to the street surface.”
The project is expected to cost about $12.5 million, of which the state will pay all but 16% of the costs – up to a maximum amount of $2 million – which will be paid by the city. Construction is expected to begin in 2022. Once the project is completed, the stretch of road will become a city street and be removed from ArDOT’s highway system.
“(This street and project) can be transformative for the city,” said Arkansas Highway Commissioner Keith Gibson of Fort Smith, who said the project was one discussed most by citizens of Fort Smith after he was appointed to the highway commission. “I can tell you this is highly important to the citizens of Fort Smith.”
The state estimates the street will need resurfacing within 15 years, said City Administrator Carl Geffken. In order to pay for that along with other upkeep, the city would need to set aside $400,000 annually for the street. Director George Catsavis (Ward 4) questioned whether the city had the funds to put that money aside. Geffken said it did. Richard Griffin, Fort Smith Central Business Improvement District board member, addressed the board about the project stating it is something he and many others have wanted for a long time.
“When I think about vision or lack of vision, I want you to know that doing this would be remembered as vision,” Griffin said. “Real vision is going to be what you do with it.”
Griffin encouraged the board to consider what could be done to make the street a strong asset for Fort Smith including adding sidewalks, streetscaping.
“You need to look not at what it is now but what it will look like in 10 years,” he said.
Geffken said the plan for Towson includes looking at adding those things as well as curbs and bicycle lanes.
“We need to devote funds each year for long-term care,” Geffken said, noting that Towson Avenue could become another beautiful gateway into the city.
Towson Avenue is a designated truck route. Once it becomes a city street, it would cease to be one, Geffken said.