Local residents will soon have a safer option to be able to travel across Dave Ward Drive with the addition of the new pedestrian overpass.

Representatives from the city — including Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry and Finely Vinson, director of the Conway Street and Engineering Department — Metroplan’s Tab Townsell, Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker, University of Central Arkansas Chief of Staff Kelley Erstine and more attended an official groundbreaking ceremony at the location Tuesday morning.

“This is a great occasion for the city of Conway,” Castleberry said. “One thing that drives economic development is a city is growth and ride ability and walk ability … this is part of our trail system. It’s going to hook us all the way up to Stone Dam Creek and it’s going to affect our UCA students.”

The new addition, he said, would make things safer for students and others traveling across the busy street.

“We’re just looking forward to the project,” Erstine said. “Let’s dig some dirt.”

Townsell, who is also the former Conway mayor, told the Log Cabin Democrat that Dave Ward Drive and its safety concerns was one of the first major issues he dealt with when he took office in 1999.

At that time, he said, Dave Ward was a critical carrier for the city; Salem and Hogan weren’t established yet.

“This is the way most of west Conway got to the interstate,” Townsell said.

According to city representatives, Dave Ward sees around 31,000 cars per day.

When someone tries to cross the busy intersection, he said, it can get “spooky,” and is “justifiably so,” because it only takes a single bump or glance in a different direction for a vehicle to lose control, changing everything and potentially causing harm to pedestrians and cyclists in the area.

“This is important to get that safe passageway,” Townsell said.

In addition, he said, not only does it tie students to their homes and neighborhoods and businesses on the south side of Donaghey Avenue to the north side, it also ties everyone to the Stone Dam Creek and the Jewel Moore Nature Reserve Trail.

“This one little connection is a major difference,” Townsell said.

Seeing the work finally coming to fruition, he said, felt good.

The project total is more than $2 million.