Planned street, drainage work revisions sought by Fort Smith Board of Directors

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,317 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors wants the city’s engineering department to rethink how its plans for street and drainage work. The request followed the department’s presentation of its five-year capital improvement plan (CIP) at the board study session held Oct. 11.

Directors asked that more thought and funds be given to city street overlay plans. Director Jarred Rego asked that city look at and show directors what it would look like if the city directed 60% to 65% of spending onto street overlays rather than the 50% in the CIP.  Director Neal Martin questioned the streets that are listed in the street overlay plans in 2023, suggesting more major thoroughfares be looked at first.

“I would like to see us look at the major streets and work down. … There are issues with North Greenwood, and Phoenix,” Martin said. “I know if I’m going down a street 30, 35, 40 miles an hour and I hit a pothole it’s a lot more jarring and damaging than if I’m going 20 miles an hour in a neighborhood. I think from a philosophy perspective, that’s what I would like to see. I know we have a plan and process, but I think there has to be a better way to approach (resurfacing).”

Director Lavon Morton said in the short term if more money could be directed toward resurfacing, it could catch the city up with projects not finished during the COVID-19 pandemic. Morton also questioned whether the $1.1 million in the CID for 2023 for expanding Kelley Highway to Riverfront Drive was the best use of the city’s money.

“I think there is potential for a lot of business development along Riverfront Drive, but it is just not there yet. I think when things start happening there more, that’s when we look at this project,” Morton said.

Along with diverting money from some projects that might not be as necessary, directors said they would like the city to talk with the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority about contributing to some of the cost of work at Chaffee Crossing.

“We’ll go to them. It makes sense. We’ve supported them. They’ve supported us,” agreed City Administrator Carl Geffken.

Director Kevin Settle also suggested talking with Fort Smith Public Schools about contributing to planned drainage work around the district’s Peak Innovation Center.

“I don’t know why we are doing the work for drainage on their property,” Settle said.

Director of Engineering Stan Snodgrass said some of the work would be done on public easement and thus was the city’s responsibility. Other parts of the work are not on public easement, he said.

“There should be some discussion with the school district about cost sharing. If we are going to delay other projects for overlays, we need to look at this half million (budgeted for the drainage work). If we can get half or at least some, it could help,” Settle said. “The (work) towards the railroad is all on their property and should have been addressed by them. (Drainage) should have been moved around the whole edge of that property before they did all that work. That’s a different discussion. See what we can do there. I think it’s only fair.”

Morton agreed, saying that asking FSPS to make a contribution to that effort, which should save them the risk of future flooding.

“They have already suffered (flooding) from their own original construction plans. Looking to the future, it’s reasonable to (ask them to contribute),” Morton said.

The CID also looks at nearly $9 million for neighborhood drainage improvements in 2023. That total includes about $5 million carried over from the previous year.

“Could we please look into are there any possible pilot neighborhood drainage type things we could do in the northern area of town?” Director André Good asked.

In the presented CID, the total length of streets proposed to be improved is approximately 10.7 miles. The estimated cost for the 2023 street overlays and reconstruction projects totals $12.6 million, with an estimated $1.6 million expended in 2023 and $11 million expended in 2024. The total cost shown in 2023 is $10.8 million, which includes $9.2 million in remaining construction for the 2022 projects.

This work includes improvements to street surface at railroad crossings with installation of concrete railroad crossing panels. For 2023, improvements at three crossings are proposed. The projects identified in the 2023 drainage program include drainage improvements in three areas. The total estimated cost is $3.7 million, with an estimated $300,000 expended in 2023 and $1.7 million expended in both 2024 and 2025. The total cost shown in 2023 is $8.9 million which includes $8.6 million in remaining work for ongoing drainage projects.

Other projects include intersection and signal improvements; the Kelley Highway Extension to Riverfront Drive; work on Towson Avenue between Garrison Avenue and Zero Street in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Transportation; Geren Road reconstruction; and major storm drain rehabilitation.