The Conway City Council approved a bid for the Dave Ward Drive Pedestrian Overpass and appropriating funds for a mini-roundabout at College Avenue and Country Club Road during its regular meeting Tuesday.
Aldermen approved the low bid of a little more than $3.36 million from Manhattan Road and Bridge Company for the overpass project.
During the discussion, aldermen recalled the project’s estimate as being less than that and asked Street and Engineering Director Finley Vinson about the difference.
“How did we get up to $3.3 [million]?” Alderman Mary Smith asked.
Vinson explained the original estimate was developed by a planner rather than an engineer.
“When a structural engineer starts to design things, they get more accurate,” he said. “Sometimes, they get cheaper; often, they get more expensive.”
He also noted some design changes, such as going with what’s called a collegiate design rather than a cheaper model known as a simple design.
Vinson said the University of Central Arkansas contributed $300,000 to the project and had a say in choosing the design.
After UCA’s contribution and grant money is applied, the city’s cost is expected to be slightly less than $2 million, he said.
Aldermen also appropriated $200,000 for a mini-roundabout — the first of its kind in central Arkansas and the second in the state —at the College Avenue and Country Club intersection.
Vinson explained the main differences are the size and lack of grass.
“The central island doesn’t have any grass in it; it’s all pavement. If a tractor-trailer needs to drive through it, especially a left turn which would be almost impossible with a roundabout this small, the trailer can drive over the central island,” he said. “A single-lane roundabout is typically about 150 feet in diameter. College and Salem, for instance, which is a double, is about 180 feet in diameter. This one, I believe, is 80 feet in diameter, so it’s much smaller.”
The mini-roundabout will be on the hill but Vinson said the hill would be reduced by 3-4 feet.
“It will certainly move traffic much better than the stop sign does,” Vinson said. “I’m fully confident that it will move traffic sufficiently.”
Resident Bryan Massey, who lives near the intersection, said he was “really concerned” that he heard about the plan through Facebook rather than being contacted by the city.
“When I saw the plan, it really upset me that no one contacted me about my property,” Massey said.
Vinson explained he doesn’t start contacting property owners until appraisals are received and the council appropriates funds.
Massey asked about the sprinkler system on his property that the current plan would require be moved.
“We’ll take care of that; there won’t be any cost to you,” Mayor Bart Castleberry said, adding that he “put that sprinkler in about 25 years ago.”
Vinson said he expects to receive appraisals for the project soon.
The intersection will be shuttered during construction, which will likely start over the summer. Vinson said the department would aim to have the intersection reopened before school starts but that construction probably won’t be complete until the end of the year.