Pedestrians in Fayetteville will soon have a complete sidewalk route from Wedington Drive to the University of Arkansas campus.
Members of the Transportation Committee last week made a change to the recommended 2016 Sidewalk Improvement Plan that will add a new sidewalk on North Palmer Avenue from Markham Road to West Center Street.
The project is part of a plan several years in the making to provide a complete route from Wedington to the campus by way of the neighborhoods to the west of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The work on Palmer was originally set to begin in 2014, but was one of several projects that were pushed back because of weather and other delays.
City of Fayetteville
Instead of being added back into the 2016 plan, city staff included a sidewalk on nearby Halsell Road at the request of Alderman John La Tour.
La Tour, who lives at the intersection of Halsell and Oliver Avenue on land where he rents tailgating lots to fans during Razorback football games, said earlier this year it would make more sense to route gameday pedestrian traffic along Halsell rather than on Markham Road to the south.
He proposed that change at the Jan. 6 City Council meeting when aldermen were set to approve the 2015 plan, but found no support from the other council members.
Alderman Alan Long, who also serves on the Transportation Committee, said last week it’s important to stick to the original plan because residents have for years requested a complete route to campus. Long said it makes more sense to complete the final work needed now instead of delaying the project even longer for a sidewalk on Halsell that doesn’t connect to the campus.
“This is the last piece of the puzzle,” said Long, “It’s a project we started years ago and it will benefit a lot of people.”
Alderman Matthew Petty, who serves as chair of the committee, said he’d like to see staff move away from the habit of taking individual project requests from City Council members.
“I really don’t like this policy where we just do whatever an alderman asks,” said Petty. “I think that we have to apply a more data-driven approach to how we choose these projects, and I think that suggestions from aldermen with regard to what streets and sidewalks need to be constructed should stand on their merits, not on our mere political influence.”
Petty said Alderman Long made a good case for changing the plan.
“But I would be more confident making that decision if staff could say with some kind of confidence that the data backs it up.”
The committee eventually voted unanimously to make the change, and agreed to revisit the Halsell project in the 2017 plan. It’s now up to the full City Council to make the final decision in the coming weeks.
During the discussion, Petty also said he’d like to see the committee abandon the idea of spreading sidewalk projects evenly throughout each ward.
“We represent residents who are all equal, but the distribution of businesses and schools and non-residential features of the city are not equal among the wards,” said Petty.
Transportation Services director Terry Gulley agreed. He said Wards 1 and 2 are the oldest parts of town, and when many of the streets and houses were built in those neighborhoods, developers were not required to build sidewalks in front of houses. In the newer areas of town, like in Wards 3 and 4, there is a much higher percentage of streets that already have sidewalks. He said nearly half of the streets in Ward 4 have sidewalks, compared to about 20 percent in Ward 1.
“When we look at some of these challenges,” Petty said, “I think we have to ask ourselves from a whole-city perspective, what projects are going to benefit the most people?”
2016 Sidewalk Improvement Project Locations and Lengths
|Morningside Dr.||Huntsville Rd.||Fairlane St.||610 ft.|
|Rock St.||College Ave.||Mill Ave.||1,010 ft.|
|Starr Dr.||Mission Blvd.||St. Joseph School||880 ft.|
|College Ave.||North St.||Maple St.||2,520 ft.|
|Copper Creek Dr.||Existing sidewalk||Zion Rd.||1,135 ft.|
|Magnolia Dr.||Azalea Terrace||Ashbrook Dr.||725 ft.|
|Warwick Dr.||Oak Bailey Dr.||Existing sidewalk||525 ft.|
|46th Ave.||Wedington Dr.||Existing sidewalk||1,250 ft.|
|Palmer Ave.||Markham Rd.||Center St.||1,950 ft.|
NOTE: Officials expect to complete about 400 additional feet of repairs and maintenance in various locations around town.