Officials with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department last month unveiled preliminary designs for planned improvements to the Interstate 540 interchanges at Wedington Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
After looking over the proposed plans, city officials have a few changes they’d like the Department to consider before continuing with the $50 million project (see specific recommendations below).
Bikes, pedestrians, and medians
For starters, the city would like to see a separated bicycle and pedestrian path over the I-540 bridge on Wedington, instead of on-street bike lanes that would put trail users in the middle of traffic with cars on either side of them when headed east on Wedington.
“We’ve heard from numerous citizens, particularly in the Wedington corridor, that pedestrian and bicycle access is important,” said Jeremy Pate, the city’s development services director.
The city would also like to see at least one median break in each of the two areas.
State officials have proposed a continuous raised median on Wedington 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.
Pate said raised medians would certainly help keep traffic flowing in places where left turns can cause congestion, but said he wants the state to “recognize that there’s also an importance of balance” with traffic flow and access to properties and businesses.
Loop ramp preferred over flyover
The city is also concerned with the “flyover” ramp the state has suggested as an option for the King Boulevard interchange. State officials presented two options for that area, including a loop ramp, which city officials said they prefer.
“We have several concerns with (a flyover), not the least of which is emergency access across that area, which would be impossible,” Pate said Tuesday.
According to a memo (PDF) Pate sent to Alderman Long, city staff believes the solid retaining wall access ramp rising above the existing properties onto the flyover bridge will block all access and visibility for the adjacent businesses and properties around the interchange.
With the deadline for public comment fast approaching, City Council members on Tuesday agreed to officially support those recommendations.
“We want to make sure the Highway Department knows how much we appreciate their willingness to work on these interchanges,” said Alan Long, Ward 4 alderman. “But we also want to impress upon them the importance of what we think Fayetteville’s recommendations are, and ask them to give great weight to what our citizens have given input for.”
Included below are the state’s preliminary designs and the five specific recommendations the aldermen endorsed during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
Preliminary Design – Wedington/I-540 interchange
Preliminary Design – MLK/I-540 interchange (loop)
Preliminary Design – MLK/I-540 interchange (flyover)
Source: Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (via City of Fayetteville)
Fayetteville City Council recommended changes
Fayetteville City Council supports the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department in its efforts to improve the interchanges at Highway 16 and Highway 62 along I-540, but requests that the following comments be considered during the design:
1. Provision of bicycle and pedestrian access across I-540
Due to the volume of traffic and increased number of lanes proposed, a shared use trail on one side of the roadway at both interchanges is preferred over traditional bike lanes.
2. Use of Median for Access Management
Medians for access management are recognized as an important feature for safety and management. However, the limitation on access should be balanced with providing existing and future businesses with adequate provisions for the public to enter and exit their property:
- Consider a signalized median break at Hwy 16 and Tahoe Circle, to provide access for both
vehicular traffic and pedestrians onto and across Highway 16.
- Consider an additional median break on Highway 62 at the eastern entrance to Wal-Mart, and
additional cross connections between businesses near the Highway 62/l-540 interchange to minimize U-turns and long “out of the way” travel distances.
3. Conversion of Shiloh Drive from Persimmon Street to Highway 16 from 1-way traffic to 2-way traffic
Allowing traffic to use Shiloh to access the right turn loop ramp at Highway 16 will potentially reduce the traffic on Highway 16.
4. Transit Accommodations
Transit routing should be considered and the Department should engage
Ozark Regional Transit and Razorback Transit for their input.
5. Highway 62 Interchange
The loop ramp option is preferred over the flyover option.
The City Council requests that these comments, supplemented by additional detailed comments provided by City Staff and the Mayor, be incorporated into the final design for the Highway 16 and Highway 62 interchanges.
Source: City of Fayetteville