Council chooses four-lane boulevard for Rupple Road, hears vision for College Avenue

A bus travels north from Owl Creek School on Rupple Road near the site of a future street extension that will connect Rupple to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

The upcoming Rupple Road extension will be built as a four-lane boulevard, it was decided Tuesday night.

City Council members spent much of the nearly five-hour meeting listening to debate over the width of the new, 1.5-mile stretch of road, which will extend from its dead-end point by Owl Creek School south to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

As expected, Alderman Matthew Petty pitched his idea for building just two lanes through the undeveloped stretch toward MLK, which he said would free up $1.7 million that could be put toward improvements along College Avenue.

Petty’s vision for College Avenue

Funding is in place for new sidewalks and street trees on College Avenue between Maple and North streets, but Alderman Matthew Petty said making the road more attractive is only a small part of his long-term vision.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Petty’s presentation was less about small improvements like new sidewalks and street trees, and more about a long-term vision for making College Avenue a destination instead of just a traffic thoroughfare.

“It seems silly to say this,” said Petty, “But people could be proud to live near College.”

Making the vehicle-centric commercial strip less ugly and less dangerous is important, Petty said, but the bigger idea is to create incentives for developers to build new housing on or near College Avenue. This, he said, would lead to a transformation of College into a more traditional mixed-use urban model.

“With housing you can create unique places that have identities and narratives unto themselves, and that allow people to patronize businesses just by walking out their front door,” said Petty.

He suggested targeting intersections at Rolling Hills, Poplar and 15th Street, which are each within about a mile of schools, grocery stores and major employment centers.

These areas, he said, are ripe for rapid redevelopment, which would lead to a quick increase in tax revenues.

“Let’s put our money into a place that gives us a faster payoff,” he said.

Support for the original plan

Planned improvements also include widening Rupple to four lanes on existing street sections from Persimmon Street across the Wedington intersection to Congressional Street.

Source: City of Fayetteville

Residents spoke on both sides of the issue, but most were against scaling back Rupple Road, including Bobby Ferrell, a former Ward 3 alderman and chair of the Transportation Committee; Shirley Lucas former Ward 4 alderwoman; Tracy Hoskins, a local developer and member of the Planning Commission; Don Marr, the mayor’s chief of staff; and Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.

Ferrell said residents were promised a four-lane boulevard nearly 10 years ago when city officials campaigned in support of the Transportation Improvement Bond Program that voters eventually approved.

The city could have trouble establishing trust with voters when making promises in the future, he said, if it breaks old promises now.

Mayor Jordan and five aldermen thanked Petty for introducing what they called “fantastic” and “invigorating” ideas for College Avenue that should be strongly considered, but the group as a whole decided it was best to stick with the original plan on Rupple Road.

Petty said he would continue to push for improvements along College Avenue, but he agreed to back off for now.

“I think unity of the Council is the most important aspect to demonstrate,” he said. “I don’t want to try and force an issue tonight.”

Aldermen voted 8-0 in support of the four-lane boulevard on Rupple.

Moving forward

Four-lane cross-section plans for Rupple Road

Source: City of Fayetteville

Construction on the new, 1.5-mile section of Rupple Road is set to begin in early 2015.

Preliminary designs show a landscaped median with roundabouts at three intersections and a 5-foot sidewalk on the east side of the road. Aside from giving drivers a new route to the businesses along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, 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.

The existing roadway on Rupple from Persimmon Street to Wedington Drive will also be widened to four lanes, along with a short stretch on the north side of Wedington to Congressional Street to ensure compatibility with future improvements along the west Fayetteville corridor.