State officials unveil updated Wedington Drive interchange plans

Updated plans courtesy Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department / Enlarge (PDF)

The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department last week unveiled updated plans to improve the interchange at Interstate 49 and Wedington Drive in west Fayetteville.

Preliminary plans for the project were first shown in 2014, but have since been changed to reflect the inclusion of a bike and pedestrian side path as requested by Fayetteville officials.

The state’s original plans called for one sidewalk on the north side of Wedington paired with on-street bike lanes that would put bicyclists in the middle of traffic with cars on either side. City officials immediately balked at the idea and requested the sidewalk and bike lanes be removed and replaced with a single, separated, shared-use side path. The Highway Department said it would accommodate the side path, but only if the city paid for it, which led to a City Council decision to allocate about $415,000 for the work.

Updated plans shown Thursday during a public meeting include the new side path, but only on the bridge over I-49.

City planners, however, said they would like to see the side path extended across the entire length of the project to ensure more safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

City Engineer Chris Brown said he’s requested another revision to the plans, but expects the state will ask for more money to extend the side path any further.

Brown said in September it’s possible the city could recoup some of the money if the project receives a grant from the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The program, which includes an 80 percent federal share and 20 percent local match, recently awarded Fayetteville $500,000 for lighting on Mud Creek and Scull Creek trails.