UA Chancellor offers alternate route for Old Main service road

Chancellor G. David Gearhart has proposed an alternative route to the controversial service road through Old Main lawn on the University of Arkansas campus.

Plans for the temporary road were revealed last month as a way to deliver construction supplies to a planned $60 million renovation and expansion project of Vol Walker and Ozark halls.

The alternate plan proposed Thursday would change the road’s access point from the corner of Lafayette Street and Arkansas Avenue to Dickson Street.

Gearhart said that his new plan is a response to public outcry about the original proposal. Changing the Old Main lawn access point from Arkansas Avenue to Dickson Street would minimize the amount of heavy vehicular traffic on Lafayette Street, which was one of many residents’ primary concerns about the initial plan.

Other concerns included the possibility of parking being removed on Lafayette, and potential wear and tear on the historic Lafayette bridge. None of these issues would come into play under the plan.

The alternate route is not without its drawbacks, however.

From the statement released Thursday:

“Like the original plan, the Dickson Street alternative would still impact East Lawn and the stone wall,” Gearhart said. “There is no way to avoid that. It will require the removal of the same number of small trees – two – and will require transplanting one or two trees more than in the original plan.

“This plan will require a wider-than-planned opening of the stone wall, albeit on Dickson Street, to accommodate the turns that large construction vehicles will have to make to access work sites. The Arkansas-Lafayette plan would have permitted a straight, direct entrance to East Lawn that would have lessened the number of stones to be removed and later replaced.

“The Dickson Street approach also affects more sections of Senior Walk than the Arkansas-Lafayette option would,” Gearhart said. “In either case, those sections of the walk will be covered with protective metal plates until the construction and renovations are completed. We are considering ways to maintain some form of ‘virtual’ access to those sections of Senior Walk that would be obscured during the construction period.”

State senator Sue Madison (D-Fayetteville) and Representative Johnnie Roebuck (D-Arkadelphia) had previously scheduled a public hearing for 1 p.m. on Thursday June 23 at the Captiol in Little Rock to allow for public input on the project.

According to Roebuck, that meeting is still on. “That would be Senator Madison’s call, but as far as I know, it is still going to happen,” she told us Friday.

Map of Gearhart’s proposal, courtesy UA Newswire