City Council to decide on width of Rupple Road extension to MLK

Traffic passes along Rupple Road between Wedington Drive and Owl Creek School in west Fayetteville on Friday. City officials plan to widen this stretch of road to four lanes and then extend Rupple all the way to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near the base of Mount Kessler.

Photo by Todd Gill, Flyer staff

A planned extension to Rupple Road will soon give west Fayetteville residents an easier way to get from Wedington Drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Once complete, Rupple Road will continue from where it ends at Owl Creek School south to MLK across from the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse building. Aside from giving drivers a new route to the businesses along MLK, a planned 12-foot trail on Rupple will one day connect Fayetteville’s trail system to the recently acquired Mount Kessler land that includes over eight miles of hiking and mountain biking paths near a planned 200-acre regional park.

City Council members this week were prepared to add the proposed designs to a consent agenda, but one alderman said he’d like the opportunity to make a suggestion.

Matthew Petty, who represents central Fayetteville in Ward 2, said he’s all for extending Rupple, but he would rather see the city build a two-lane road on the new stretch instead of the staff-recommended four-lane boulevard.

Petty, chair of the City Council’s Street Committee, said constructing four traffic lanes through 1.5 miles of undeveloped land is too much, too soon.

Petty said scaling back the plans to only include two lanes between Owl Creek and MLK would free up about $1.7 million that could be put toward improvements on North College Avenue in midtown Fayetteville.

New sidewalks, buried power lines or a program to incentivize housing development, Petty said, could bring businesses and residents to an unattractive, aging area of town that still serves as a main thoroughfare.

“We could take that $1.7 million and use it for overkill out on Rupple Road or we could use it for overdue improvements on College,” Petty said. “If we do this right, we can have our cake and eat it, too.”

Petty noted a recent traffic study by Jacobs Engineering which predicted four lanes wouldn’t be necessary on Rupple Road for at least another 10-15 years. Even so, Petty said it’s difficult to determine a timeframe considering the study was based on the density of the tightly packed row house development on Rupple across from the Boys & Girls Club.

City officials have already budgeted about $10 million for the extension project using money from the voter-approved Transportation Improvement Bond Program.

Petty acknowledged that scaling back the plans and diverting the savings to another project would certainly require more than $1.7 million once the city eventually widens Rupple to four lanes. But, he said, it’s more of a gamble to build additional lanes long before traffic warrants them.

“$1.7 million spent on Rupple is a risky bet, but $1.7 million spent on College Avenue is a guaranteed return,” said Petty. “We should be working to take care of problems we’ve already got, not to solve problems we can only speculate will one day develop.”

Aldermen left the plans on the regular agenda, and will begin a formal discussion during the next City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 18.