Graphic: Todd Gill, Flyer staff
At least two more public discussions are planned before a final decision is made, but it looks like a nearly 140-foot-long lighted tunnel will be how Frisco Trail users get from one side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the other.
A planned southern extension which will connect the trail to Walker Park led city officials to consider three options for how trail users should cross Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Should the trail be built in a tunnel, on a bridge, or directly on the street using a crosswalk?
Matt Mihalevich, city trails coordinator, said surveys collected last month showed that most residents – 50 out of 73 – prefer a tunnel similar to one recently completed under Garland Avenue.
Members of the city’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee also showed support for a tunnel last week.
The group, formerly known as the Sidewalk and Trails Task Force, meets quarterly and advises city staff on the prioritization and land easements for sidewalk and trail construction.
Committee members said an at-grade crossing would be too dangerous for trail users and that a bridge was probably overkill, especially considering it was the most costly of the three options.
Alan Ostner, a trail user who lives near the proposed trail crossing, said he was nervous about the idea of a tunnel in that location. Ostner said he frequently deals with area panhandlers and believes a tunnel would contribute to similar activity including “slight mischief, some graffiti, and littering.”
“I cannot imagine how any of that behavior is going to change,” Ostner said.
Laura Kelly, a resident who works near the proposed crossing and who is chairwoman of the Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks, disagreed.
“I’ve never felt that we have any special fear factor in our neighborhood,” said Kelly.
Mihalevich 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.
The Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will discuss the issue during
a special meeting set for 12 p.m. Wednesday at the Lake Fayetteville marina, 1330 E. Lake Fayetteville Road (meeting canceled) its next meeting on Aug. 6. The City Council’s Street Committee will likely make a final decision during its next regular meeting on July 31.
Mihalevich said grants from The Home Depot Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation will cover the design of the project, and construction costs would be paid using grant money from the NWA Regional Planning Commission for use on the planned Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36-mile trail that will connect south Fayetteville to north Bentonville.