Fayetteville approves contract for new transportation master plan

Traffic flows along the Fulbright Expressway by the construction site of the College Avenue flyover bridge in August 2013. The flyover was one of over 20 projects that came out of the city’s current transportation plan, which will soon be replaced with a new set of guidelines.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Fayetteville’s 13-year-old transportation plan could soon be replaced with a fresh set of tools to help guide the city for at least the next decade.

Aldermen on Tuesday approved a $585,000 contract with Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates to create a new transportation master plan and a downtown and entertainment distric parking and mobility report.

The decision follows a 2013 resolution of intent to update the current plan, which was adopted in 2003. That plan led to a $65 million voter-approved bond issue which provided funding for over 20 projects, including the College Avenue flyover bridge, the Van Asche Drive and Rupple Road extensions, and the restoration of the historic bridges on Lafayette and Maple streets.

With much of that work now complete, and the remainder in progress, officials said it’s time to develop an updated strategy.

“By and large, everything we have when it comes to planning our streets is now obsolete,” said Alderman Matthew Petty, chair of the council’s Transportation Committee.

Besides outlining another set of infrastructure needs, Petty said a new plan will also help the city adapt to changes in transportation technology and give real estate developers the kind of predictability they need to invest in large-scale commercial projects. “I think the value of that is really hard to quantify,” he said.

Nelson\Nygaard was chosen over four other consultant teams that submitted statements of qualifications for the development of the new plan. The 123-person firm specializes in planning for all modes of transportation. According to city documents, their statement of qualifications lists several relevant projects including a mobility and parking study in New Orleans, complete streets design guideline development in Chicago, participation in moveDC, Washington D.C.’s long-range transportation plan, and an in-progress master planning effort in Boston. Locally, Nelson/Nygaard is in the final stages of completing a campus transportation plan for the University of Arkansas.

Bob Munger, founder of local car sharing company SUMO, said the transportation industry is rapidly changing. With less people driving cars and self-driving vehicles on the horizon, Munger said it’s the perfect time for a revision of the city’s transportation goals and policies.

Alderwoman Sarah Marsh agreed.

“It’s not just about cars,” said Marsh, adding that the new plan will also consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. “This is about how our city will grow.”

Alderman John La Tour was the only council member to vote against the contract. He said there are several transporation projects he knows about which need to be taken care of first – including a sidewalk on the street where he lives – before spending money on a new master plan.

Chris Brown, city engineer, said the next steps will include a series of public input sessions and focus groups led by Nelson\Nygaard. In about 15 months, the completed plan will head back to the City Council for final approval.