Residents looked at maps and gave opinions on plans to improve access to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in a public meeting on the project to build a connector road to the Highfill airport.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) hosted a meeting Thursday (Dec. 5) in Rogers to show three proposed alignments for the connector road, leading to the south entrance of XNA. More than 115 people attended the public meeting to look at maps of the proposed alignments, speak to ArDOT and XNA staff and provide feedback on the project.
The three proposed alignments would include expanding portions of existing highways or building new highways. One of the alignments would include building a 4-mile, four-lane divided highway from Arkansas Highway 612, or the U.S. Highway 412 bypass, to the south entrance of the airport along state Highway 264. The proposed road would cross Osage Creek and Little Osage Creek and several other roads, including Wager Road, Haden Road, Holmes Road and Malone Lane.
Another alignment would include expanding to four lanes existing portions of highways 112 and 264 and building a shorter road from state Highway 112 near Wagon Wheel Road, crossing Osage Creek and follow Colonel Meyers Road to Highway 264. The third proposed alignment would include widening to four lanes highways 112 and 264 from Highway 612 to the south entrance of the airport. Finally, not doing anything would be a fourth option. Residents provided comments on the alignments at the meeting. Also, comment forms are available online. Link here for the online form. The deadline to provide comment is Dec. 20.
ArDOT would not only like feedback from those who might be impacted by the project, but also from those who use the airport regularly, said Danny Straessle, public information officer for ArDOT. A timeline and cost to build any of the proposed alignments has yet to be determined, and ArDOT has yet to budget money for their construction, Straessle said. However, the connector road would be one of the projects to receive funding if voters approve a proposed half-cent sales tax extension. State legislators agreed to put the proposal on the general election ballot Nov. 3, 2020. In 2020, ArDOT plans to host 12 public meetings across the state, including one in Springdale, regarding the proposal, Straessle said.
Andrew Branch, chief business development officer for XNA, said the connector road would take longer to build if voters don’t approve the proposal. When asked about the importance of the road to XNA, Branch said it’s one of the airport’s highest priorities.
“If we could afford to and were able to build it ourselves, we would build it. We obviously can’t,” he said, noting the importance of passengers being able to reach the airport. “If they can’t get to the airport, they can’t use the airport.” Highway 264 leading to the airport has been closed from four to six times since he started at XNA in April, he said.
Straessle previously said ArDOT had plans to extend the Highway 412 bypass 1 mile to the west to reach the connector road, and money for the $11 million project could be used for other projects if the connector wasn’t completed. Since then, XNA has agreed to allow ArDOT to design the connector road. Garver is handling the design work. Project plans also have been expanded in that the road would be more than a road solely serving the airport but be more significant to the area highway system.
ArDOT plans to host two more public meetings for the connector road project. The next meeting will be to determine the alignment of the connector road. It is expected to take place in July 2020. The meeting after that will be to show the design. It will be in June 2021.
XNA will support any of the alignments, and the environmental study will determine which one is selected, Branch said.
“The southernmost route is the most direct and shortest and would probably be the least disruptive to Cave Springs,” Branch said. “But we don’t know what environmental challenges that will present.”
Rogers Realtor Terry Metcalf preferred the route entirely of new construction, which would be the southernmost and shortest route. Metcalf said he uses XNA frequently and was at the meeting representing a property owner in the project area.
Rogers resident Kristin Wheeler went to the meeting to determine whether some property her parents plan to move to would be impacted by the project. She said wanted to know before they relocated from Atlanta. She doesn’t expect the project to impact the property.
Which homes and what property the project would impact won’t be determined until design work is closer to completion, Straessle said.