Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
FAYETTEVILLE — Some major changes are coming to Archibald Yell Boulevard, just south of downtown Fayetteville.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a $2.99 million contract with Benchmark Construction of NWA, Inc. for the project, which includes a redesign of the road and features a complete overhaul of the intersection at Rock Street.
The project is being funded from the transportation bond issue that voters approved in 2019, along with about $300,000 from the city’s water and sewer fund.
The four-lane boulevard cuts through the historical grid of streets located south and east of Fayetteville’s downtown square, but officials said 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 in 2018 before city staff sought specific 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.
As part of the work, the road will be reduced from four lanes to three lanes, and will include a traffic signal and pedestrian crossing at South Street. Design drawings show a striped buffer on the north side of the road that separates vehicles from people who are walking or riding bikes.
City Engineer Chris Brown said a 2020 traffic study determined that the corridor could benefit from a lane reduction, which is often referred to as a “road diet.”
“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 overhaul of the five-way intersection of Archibald Yell and South College Avenue/Rock Street will be a considerable change from how drivers currently navigate the area.
Southbound traffic will have a dedicated left-turn lane for drivers headed east onto Rock Street. A second left-turn lane is included farther south for traffic turning onto South College Avenue. The current intersection does not include any dedicated turn lanes, which creates confusion, especially for cars headed north from South College Avenue, Brown said.
A landscape island will separate the two left-turn options and provide some pedestrian refuge for people crossing Archibald Yell, he said.
“We really think this will be a nice safety improvement,” said Brown. “We do have a lot of accidents there.”
Council member Sloan Scroggin said he’s heard from people who are concerned about reducing the road to three lanes, but after looking at the traffic study, he realized the capacity of three lanes is actually higher than the current usage of the road with four lanes.
“We’re not lowering capacity here so I’m not concerned about that,” Scroggin said. “Hopefully this becomes a far safer section of road. Sometimes you’re on it with a semi or a dump truck and it’s scary.”
Brown said work could start in late June or early July, and should take between eight and nine months to complete.