The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) will hear comments and concerns from the public regarding possible plans to fix a high-traffic area in Conway during a community meeting Thursday at the Don Owen Sports Complex.
The meeting, which will follow an “open-house format,” according to a news release, will be held from 4-7 p.m. The complex is at 10 Lower Ridge Road in Conway.
ArDOT will present and allow discussion regarding plans to construct dual left turn lanes on Highway 65 and relocate the eastbound Interstate 40 off ramp.
Danny Straessle, ArDOT spokesman, said that in this area, currently there are several options for travelers.
He said those traveling south on Highway 65 go under the I-40 bridge to make a left turn to go east on I-40; those traveling south on Highway 65 toward Walmart don’t have to stop; those making a left turn to go east on I-40 to Little Rock have to drive up to the light; and travelers heading north on Highway 65 stop at a light.
The proposed changes — part of the 2019-2022 statewide transportation improvement program (STIP) by ArDOT — will require all of the southbound traffic on Highway 65 to stop at a light.
“We’re making a change to the traffic signal there,” Straessle said.
Per the current proposal, he said, ArDOT would also construct an additional lane to I-40 going eastbound.
“That will allow more queuing and more traffic to go through there,” Straessle said. “It will allow more traffic to move through the area.”
He said the problem is not of safety but of congestion. With this plan, ArDOT hopes to ease that, he said by adding a tweak and putting through more traffic.
The Log Cabin Democrat asked Straessle how it is that the proposed plans in the STIP are selected.
He said every five years ArDOT has to put together the document to give the federal government an idea to where the state will spend money they receive. The STIP is a five-year planning document that gets adjusted along the way.
As for this specific area, Straessle said, that was determined as a need by traffic counts, safety studies and more. He said ArDOT has a planning division for that.
“This is what they do,” he said. “They study different intersections throughout the state and in areas where you have high amounts of congestion.”
ArDOT then takes a closer look at those studies for possible improvements.
“This just happens to be a really simple situation,” Straessle said.
Currently, the department is looking at September 2019 for a possible timeline to start bidding, he said.
In addition, the proposal sets the project at a $3.5 million “planning level estimate,” Straessle said, which is not definite.
He said they are at a “30,000-foot-view,” stage of the process and would know more later.
If this project does move forward, Straessle said, it’s not a difficult or challenging one but time just depends on varying factors like weather.
Right now, he said, ArDOT is adding a lane to Rodney Parham where it intersects with I-40 in Little Rock, which is going fast because of good weather.
Straessle said Thursday's meeting will give the public a chance to learn more about the plans, view displays and offer comments on the matter.
“We want to talk to the people that drive this every day,” he said.
Straessle said ArDOT’s engineers can look at this and make inferences about what needs to be done but they’re not the ones making this drive so instead, they must go to the public to get their input.
“Just to make sure we don’t miss anything,” he said.
Oftentimes, Straessle said, they get good information and feedback from these meetings.
“It’s not a ‘here it is, you’re going to like,’ it’s ‘here it is, give us some feedback,’” he said. “It’s really a listening situation for us. We want to hear what the public has to say.”