Members of the City Council’s Transportation Committee recently got a look at the early ideas for an updated Archibald Yell Boulevard.
The four-lane boulevard cuts through the historical grid of streets located south and east of Fayetteville’s downtown square, but officials believe its current format encourages high speeds and is a barrier to pedestrians wanting to cross the street from the neighborhoods to the south and east to destinations around the square and entertainment district.
Changes were discussed for several years leading up to an official project that kicked off last year when city staff sought public input on ways to reduce or eliminate those barriers and create a street that is safer for people walking and riding bikes while still providing adequate levels of service for vehicles.
Representatives from Garver Engineers last month showed some preliminary drawings for how the roadway could be improved.
The proposed changes would begin at the five-way intersection of Archibald Yell and South College Avenue/Rock Street, and would include pedestrian and lighting upgrades.
Installation of a traffic signal at South Street is also part of the proposal, and pavement marking adjustments would be made throughout the corridor leading to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Staff said a traffic analysis determined that the corridor could benefit from a lane reduction, which is often referred to as a “road diet.”
City Engineer Chris Brown said the idea is to change from a four-lane road to a three-lane concept with single lanes in each direction and a continuous central turn lane.
“We know that there are people who don’t believe that a road diet is the appropriate treatment here,” said Brown. “I feel strongly that it is and that the traffic analysis proves that.”
The work could be done in two phases, beginning with temporary lane re-striping to gauge whether the plan actually works or if it needs to be adjusted before permanent infrastructure is added.
Intersection improvements could follow, including a total overhaul of the Archibald Yell/Collge/Rock intersection, and adding a traffic signal with crosswalks at South Street.
One part of the road design includes a striped buffer on the north side that separates vehicles from people who are walking or riding bikes. The preliminary drawings show an 8-foot buffer with rumble strips and a 6-foot multi-use lane.
Members of the committee said they’re most curious to see how the multi-use lane is used once the test phase begins.
Council Member Kyle Smith said he has some concerns about how two-way bicycle traffic will work when people riding fast down the curving roadway meet those who are riding slowly uphill.
Council Member Matthew Petty, who serves as chair of the committee, said one way to solve that could be widening the multi-use lane to 10 feet by reducing the driving lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet. The change, he said, would further encourage slower traffic, and provide more space for other uses.
Petty, however, said he’s happy to wait and see how the roadway is used once the initial striping is in place.
“I think we’re going to see people use (the multi-use lane) – both to go uphill and downhill,” he said. “It probably won’t be a lot because I don’t think it’s going to be a very primary route, but I think we’re going to get a sense of how we should stripe it permanently.”
For now, officials are working to get the initial concepts ready for a final round of public comment before bringing the final proposal back to the committee early next year.