Street Committee reconsidering Block Avenue plans

You know what they say about what looks good on paper, right?

Even though work on the Block Avenue enhancement project is almost one-third complete, the city’s engineering department has been asked to come up with some last-minute redesigns to the plan.

The design of the nearly completed stretch of road between Dickson and Spring has sent up early red flags for members of Fayetteville’s Street Committee.

“When I looked at the plans, I saw one thing,” said committee member Bobby Ferrell. “But when I look down that street – and I hope it’s not just my perception – it doesn’t look the same.” Ferrell is also a city council member from Ward 3.

I don’t think you’re ever going to see an emergency vehicle going fast on Block.

— Alderman Bobby Ferrell, Ward 3

The narrow width of the driving lane makes for a fairly tight squeeze when cars are parked on both sides of the street. City engineer Chris Brown said it is possible for a firetruck to make it through, but not very quickly. “If folks don’t park all the way against the curb on both sides, it can be very tight,” Brown said.

The fire department also had some concerns about navigating the street, said Brown. As a result, some of the planned green space has been removed in favor of concrete to accommodate for wide turns.

“I think there’s going to have to be some adjustments made,” said Ferrell. “I don’t think you’re ever going to see an emergency vehicle going fast on Block.”

The other two Street Committee members present at Tuesday’s meeting echoed Ferrell’s concerns and even had a few of their own.

“It’s very sad to me,” said Matthew Petty. “We’ve taken what has the potential to be a very functional street for pedestrians and for vehicular traffic, and we’ve turned it into a parking lot that is hard to maneuver.”

“That’s exactly what I thought,” added Brenda Thiel. Both Thiel and Petty serve on the Street Committee and are Fayetteville City Council members.

Petty’s biggest complaint was that back-in parking creates a situation where the rear end of a vehicle extends over the top of the sidewalk, essentially eliminating pedestrian walk space. Combined with the elimination of green space, Petty says the plan isn’t turning out the way the committee wanted.

“I’m concerned that this was a poorly planned design and that we hadn’t considered all these things when we rushed into it,” Petty said. “If we don’t address these concerns, we’ve crippled Block from becoming what we wanted it to be in the first place.”

It’s not just committee members that are worried about the plan, said Ferrell. “I have not had a single citizen comment to me that they like this other than a person that works for the city,” he said. “And I’ll have to take them at their word that they actually like it.”

Some possible fixes discussed were removing the parallel parking from the street to allow for a wider single driving lane, switching to a two-lane road with parallel parking only, or switching from back-in parking to front pull-in parking.

The committee will hold a special meeting Monday afternoon to discuss possible adjustments.

In the meantime, work will continue on the sidewalks along the street as they likely won’t be affected by any street changes.