Those attending tonight’s Ward 2 Garland Avenue expansion meeting were quick to point out that a compromise is not something they’re willing to live with.
The project, which is already a year behind schedule, is a complete redesign of a small stretch of Garland Avenue from North Street to Janice Drive. The two-lane road is in desperate need of being widened and City officials are trying to keep the state from simply paving a five-lane, College Avenue-esque street that would begin at Harps Foods and end about .75 miles to the north.
Garland Avenue doubles as Arkansas Highway 112 and part of the funding for the $6.5 million project will come from the State. Therefore, the plan must first be state-approved before the $1.5 million is released. The City plans to contribute the remaining $5 million.
“I’ve never wanted a five lane road. I just don’t think they’re very safe,” said Mayor Lioneld Jordan. “What we want is something iconic for Garland,” added Alderman Matthew Petty who led the meeting.
Originally, a plan was submitted to the state that would include four lanes and a continuous median with trees to mirror the already-complete stretch that extends from Harps to the University of Arkansas. The plan was twice rejected, said Mayor Jordan.
A revised plan was created by the Street Committee that includes five lanes but features about seven 100-foot-long, landscaped refuge islands in what the Mayor called a compromise to the original plan and what the State is more in favor of. “I don’t know if they would even agree to this, though,” said Jordan.
But the neighbors weren’t having it. Some even called the revised plan “completely unacceptable.” “Well, I can keep pushing if that’s what the people want,” said Jordan.
In an effort to get residents on the same page, Petty created an online survey to gather public opinion. At the time of the meeting, about 200 citizens had participated but in order to be most effective when presenting to the State, Petty stressed the need for at least another 200 completed surveys.
Although tonight’s crowd was obviously against any type of five-lane plan, Fayettville chief of staff Don Marr wondered where everyone was during last month’s Garland Avenue meeting that included state officials. When asked for a show of hands of those who attended the June meeting, only about four hands arose from the audience.
“And that’s part of our problem,” said Marr.
Such disorganization has led to two recent undesirable widening projects, noted Petty. South Crossover and West Wedington were cited as examples of state highways that ended up being transformed into traditional, five-lane roads.
“And that’s exactly what’s going to happen to Garland,” warned former Mayor Dan Coody.
Marr said the City has until about October to come up with a plan or the state may decide to take its money to another project.
For anyone who wishes to voice their opinion, head over to tr.im/garland to take the survey.