Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Fayettevil­le OKs $14.6M to finish corridor


FAYETTEVIL­LE — The city is ready to start constructi­on on the final phase of a transporta­tion corridor that a consultant identified four years ago as a “high-priority” route.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a $14.6 million contract with Crossland Heavy Contractor­s in Lowell to finish the Midtown Corridor. The 2.3-mile project will run mostly east-west from where Interstate 49 meets Stephen Carr Memorial Boulevard to near where Poplar Street ends at College Avenue.

The first phase of work is complete, from where the interstate meets Carr Boulevard, northwest of the new police headquarte­rs campus, to just east of Fire Station No. 8 on Deane Street.

Phase I involved installing a roundabout at the southwest corner where Carr Boulevard, Porter Road and Deane Street all intersect. Carr Boulevard and Deane Street also were widened to include a turn lane.

Carr Boulevard also got a new sidewalk on its west side and a 12-foot-wide trail on the east side. Deane Street now has a new sidewalk on its south side and a trail on its north side just past the fire station.

Work on the final phase will begin next month. The center turn lane on Deane Street will extend the length of the roadway. Sidewalks will connect on the south side of Deane Street to Lynns Place, which for now is a short cul-de-sac between residences. The trail on the north side of Deane Street will head south along Lynns Place and then turn east to go past the southern property line of Tri Cycle Farms. A trail crossing will be placed across Deane Street to get trail users south along Lynns Place.

The trail will continue along the south side of Sycamore Street, with a new sidewalk on the street’s north side. Trail users will then travel north along the Razorback Greenway to get to Poplar Street. The trail will be 10 feet wide on the south side of Poplar Street, extending to Woodland Avenue.

Eventually, the city plans to extend the trail along the remaining 1,200 feet of Sycamore Street to College Avenue, as a separate project.

An on-street bike route will spur from Sycamore Street south along Woodland Avenue to provide access to Gregory Park.

New crosswalks and bus stops will be placed throughout the stretch.

Budget on the total project is $19.9 million. The Walton Family Foundation provided a $410,000 grant for design, with the rest coming from bond issues voters approved in 2019.

Completion is scheduled for March 2025.

The project will improve bicycle and pedestrian access along the corridor, but will also provide a smoother ride for cars with the widened streets, Public Works Director Chris Brown said. The added bus stops and crosswalks make the project truly friendly to all modes of travel, he said.

“Of all of the projects we’ve done in this bond program, this probably hits more modes than any other,” Brown said. “It’s really exciting to see it moving forward.”

A study from national planning firm Toole Design Group in 2019 identified the stretch as a high priority for an improved bicycle network in the city.

Don Bennett, founder and executive director of Tri Cycle Farms, said the neighborho­od hasn’t had a decent east-west connection accessible to all neighbors, regardless of how they travel. Bennett got involved in the planning process for the trail early on and convinced city planners to put the route near the farm.

Tri Cycle Farms was establishe­d in 2011 to address food insecurity in an area of town with high poverty rates. Having the trail run by the property will help increase access to the farm, Bennett said. He plans to create a trailside connection to the farm to attract passersby, he said.

“Folks in this area understand how much food insecurity is in this neighborho­od and that this is an opportunit­y zone that Tri Cycle Farms sits on,” he said. “This bike trail is really important.”

Opportunit­y zones are areas of low-income neighborho­ods the federal government identifies for potential aid to help spur economic growth and job creation, according to the IRS website. A wide swath of about 7,000 residents between Interstate 49 and Garland Avenue is identified as an opportunit­y zone, as is a large chunk of south Fayettevil­le.

City Council Member Sarah Moore, a representa­tive of the part of town where the Midtown Corridor lies who serves on the council’s Transporta­tion Committee, said she’s incredibly excited about the project. Moore walked much of the area while campaignin­g and experience­d its pitfalls firsthand, she said.

Gaps in sidewalks, ditches on both sides of the street and speeding cars created hazards for bicyclists and pedestrian­s before the work started, Moore said. Pedestrian­s would have to criss-cross streets several times or walk in ditches to navigate the area on foot, she said.

The project helps further the city’s goal to provide trails not just for recreation, but as a viable means of transporta­tion, Moore said. The city also lacks adequate east-west routes, she said.

“We’ve talked a lot at City Council about quality of life,” Moore said. “I think that’s so incredibly important for every segment of our population.”

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