With so much support already in the bag, it should come as no surprise that the Fayetteville Street Committee voted unanimously Tuesday evening to build a tunnel under Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as part of the Frisco Trail southern extension project.
The 140-foot, lighted tunnel is expected to cost about $1.3 million and will be constructed exclusively for the trail, similar to the 270-foot tunnel under Garland Avenue on the recently opened Meadow Valley Trail.
Other options considered included a $960,000 at-grade crossing and a $1.6 million, 20-foot-tall bridge with 310-foot ramps on each side.
The tunnel idea was first endorsed by city staff before project engineers were asked to explore more options.
Some residents worried about the possibility of a tunnel attracting crime to the area, but Matt Mihalevich, the city’s trails coordinator, said other than some occasional graffiti, there haven’t been issues with crime in any of the city’s other tunnels on the trail system.
Despite the presentation of two detailed alternatives, the tunnel continued to receive support, and gained approval from the Active Transportation Advisory Board, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the majority of residents who responded to a public survey in June.
Chris Brown, city engineer, said he still believes the tunnel is the best option for getting trail users from one side of the state highway to the other.
“To come to the same conclusion after all of the discussion and public comment,” said Brown, “I really feel as strong about this recommendation as I did before.”
Aldermen Brenda Boudreaux and Bobby Ferrell agreed.
“I think the majority of people prefer a tunnel, particularly people who use the trails,” said Boudreaux.
“I do, too,” said Ferrell. “I think the tunnel is the safest way to go.”
City staff have said the project should be fully funded without any cost to the city. Grants from The Home Depot Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation will cover the design, while construction is expected to be covered by the Walton Family Foundation as part of the Razorback Regional Greenway, a planned 36-mile trail system that will stretch from south Fayetteville to Bella Vista.
For more on the Frisco Trail southern extension, including details of the three crossing options at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, see our full coverage of the issue.