Highway official raises prospect of pedestrian walkway in downtown Fort Smith

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,718 views 

The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) could turn A Street in downtown Fort Smith over to the city, which could lead to the street being turned into a pedestrian only thoroughfare, according to ADT District Engineer Chad Adams.

While updating the board on various ArDOT projects during Tuesday’s (July 26) Fort Smith Board of Directors study session, Adams said that state-funded work on Riverfront Drive should begin in the next couple of weeks. The $3.9 million project, 6.3 miles of “pavement preservation,” which is a type of resurfacing, has been let and the contractor has indicated work will begin when an overlay project on Highway 64 in the Van Buren-Alma area is completed in the next two to three week. The work is expected to be finished in early fall, he added.

“It’s mostly repaving. There are some repairs at the A Street intersection,” Adams said. “A Street is obviously a one-way street, with B Street (going the other way.) There is some interest, at least on my side, to maybe take A Street off the system and make B Street a two-way road. That would allow Fort Smith to take A Street, maybe close it to traffic, and use it for pedestrians. There are a lot of possibilities. I just wanted to throw that out as something.”

He did mention that is not something that will be part of the Riverside Drive project, but could be something considered in the future. Director Kevin Settle said the option is something he would like to see considered sooner rather than later. City Administrator Carl Geffken said the idea is something the city has considered for years because it would “pull together Compass Park with the Glass Pavilion.”

Adams said the project to widen and relocate part of Highway 255 from Massard Road into Barling along with pavement preservation work on Highways 253 and 255 should begin soon. The project is a joint project with the ArDOT, the city of Fort Smith, the city of Barling and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.

“That work has been delayed because of utility conflicts. Those utility conflicts are very near completion, within a week being completed. So the contractor is anxiously awaiting to go to work,” Adams said.

The project should be underway soon and is expected to be completed by late 2023 or early 2024, Adams said.

Fort Smith will also see two bridge projects over the Arkansas River into Fort Smith coming in the next year. The Garrison Avenue bridge has deck rehab scheduled for early 2023 and beam painting scheduled for 2024. The Midland Avenue Bridge and Interstate 540 Bridge are both scheduled for resurfacing in summer and fall 2023.

“Unfortunately, that means one road (on the bridge) will be closed for long periods of time,” Adams said. “But we do have it in the contracts to keep both (bridges) from being worked on at the same time.