State officials have no plans for a roundabout as part of upcoming improvements to the Wedington Drive interchange on Interstate 540 in west Fayetteville.
Highway Department staff unveiled their preliminary designs for the area during a public input session held Thursday at Asbell Elementary School. Interchange work is needed to widen the Wedington Drive bridge as part of ongoing efforts to add lanes to I-540.
City planners had envisioned a large roundabout to replace the interchange, but state officials said Thursday that traffic models indicate a roundabout likely wouldn’t handle the 33,000 cars that pass through the area each day.
Instead, plans call for an on-ramp loop on the south side of the interchange to keep eastbound drivers on Wedington from crossing traffic when headed north on I-540. That design would eliminate one of four existing stoplights at the interchange.
Other plans include a new lane and raised medians to help keep traffic flowing west of the interstate.
Drawings presented Thursday show a continuous median from Futrall Drive to Salem Road, a design that would prevent left turns into the shopping center where a Harps grocery store, a gas station, and several restaurants are located.
Drivers headed east on Wedington who want to get to those businesses would need to turn left at Salem Road and then right into the Harps parking lot, or continue to Shiloh Drive and make a U-turn. Drivers headed west on Wedington would have to make a U-turn at Salem to get to the businesses on the south side of the street.
City officials hope to convince the state to make a few changes before construction begins.
Peter Nierengarten, city sustainability and resilience director, said the city will request at least one median break and traffic signal to allow access onto Tahoe Place and Marvin Avenue.
City planners would also like to see a separated bicycle and pedestrian path on the north side of the interchange bridge, instead of on-street bike lanes that would put trail users right in the middle of traffic when headed east on Wedington.
Nierengarten said state engineers should have enough room to add the separated path if the on-street bike lanes are removed from the design plans.
According to a project timeline at arkansashighways.com, construction of the interchange could begin by the end of the year.
Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Highway Department, said Friday the interchange work would begin within the next two years, funding permitting.
Straessle said residents who didn’t make it to Thursday’s meeting can review plans for the Wedington Drive interchange on the department’s website beginning next week.