Towson Avenue overlay work to begin in early July

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 36 views 

The Arkansas Department of Transportation is expected to begin resurfacing Highway 71B (Towson Avenue) in Fort Smith in early July. The project had been scheduled for June but was delayed due to weather and scheduling issues, according to ARDOT.

The pavement preservation project will mill (remove top part of existing surface) and overlay 3.8 miles of Towson Avenue between Highway 64 (Garrison Avenue) and Highway 271. To limit traffic disruptions, lane closures will be limited to overnight hours, generally between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.

There are an estimated 18,000 vehicles using that stretch of highway daily, said Ellen Coulter, media communications manager for the ARDOT Public Information Office.

If the weather cooperates, ARDOT said the project should take about one month. The job was awarded to Fort Smith-based Forsgren Inc. in February for approximately $2.6 million, according to ARDOT information. The project will work to address uneven road surfaces and potholes on Towson Avenue until everything is in place for a larger ARDOT improvement project of the highway, said Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken.

“The City of Fort Smith is very appreciative of ARDOT and Commissioner (Keith) Gibson and their efforts to rehabilitate and transform Towson Avenue. Their resurfacing project will improve Towson and provide the city time to raise the $25 million that’s needed to upgrade, upsize or replace sewer and water lines under Towson,” Geffken said. “The city does not want to have the transformation of Towson completed only for the city to excavate under Towson to do that work. Doing that work as part of the transformation of Towson will also save the city money.”

Map of planned work on Towson Avenue in Fort Smith

ARDOT held a public meeting in November on proposed improvements to Towson Avenue that would include the mill and inlay project and provide additional drainage and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant sidewalks. Along with resurfacing the road, the project is expected to include extensive work to improve drainage that not only will help alleviate flooding on the state highway, but also will help keep the surface of the road from developing as many potholes, said project engineers with Little Rock-based Garver Engineers.

There also will be new curbs and sidewalks installed along the entirety of the project, the engineers said. That aspect of the project will lead to specific entrances and exits to the properties along the road, which should be better for traffic, engineers said. While some traffic signals will be replaced, no new intersections will get signals.

A lot of the project depends on the City of Fort Smith relocating sewer and water lines along Towson Avenue, which the city is still finding ways to fund. The U.S. Department of Defense denied Fort Smith’s pre-application for a $20 million grant to fund water line work along four miles of Towson Avenue, but the city said it will continue to look for other funding sources.

The city requested a postponement of the Towson Ave project while it tried to find the funds to perform the work.

The Fort Smith Utilities Department’s 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which was presented to the Fort Smith Board of Directors at a Nov. 28 study session, has $6.1 million in the water department’s CIP for relocation of water lines on Towson Avenue in 2026 and $1.654 million in the wastewater department’s non-consent decree CIP for sewer line relocation on Towson Avenue in 2026.