Plans for streetscape improvements to West Main Street were warmly received Monday at the Public Works Committee meeting.
"I think it is a great project," committee chairman Ed Long said, adding that it needs to be expanded. "This is an opportunity to have a really good entrance to the city."
Public Works director Brian Burroughs presented the review to the combined public works, budget and personnel, and police and fire committees.
"Let’s not cheapen it out. This could be a showpiece for the city," Long said.
Long called for the review during the July 2 Public Works Committee meeting, for those who did not attend the final public meeting on the project. That meeting was May 8, and was attended by four people — Sally Horsey, planner from Jacobs Consultancy of Little Rock, which is the firm doing the design work; city administration director Eddie Cook; Burroughs and a member of the press.
The streetscape concept is to promote pedestrian mobility on West Main Street and between commercial areas, Burroughs said Monday.
This has been unfolding for several years and is funded by a Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department grant, he said.
That grant is for $200,000 plus about $66,000 in federal local-use, funds through Metroplan; and the remainder in city funds. The city’s portion is about $40,000.
"It’s in the budget for this year," he said.
Funding provided through the city allowed the project to be extended from the original plan of Eighth Street to Ninth Street.
Total project cost will be about $300,000.
According to the plan specifications, the typical design of the streetscape will include a 5-foot sidewalk with a 5.5-foot landscaped buffer at the back of the curb on both sides of the roadway. The landscaped buffer will feature plantings, brick pavers, banner-style poles and benches.
The main objective for the city is the installation of new sidewalks, but the grant is for the streetscape, Burroughs said.
"There will be a lot of beautification take place with this," he said.
The sidewalks are purposely set to the back of the right-of-way to allow for widening West Main Street to four or five lanes. Widening would be a matter of moving the curb, leaving the sidewalks in place, he said.
Landscaping will use single-stalk, red crepe myrtles.
There are sections where the sidewalk will need a railing because of retaining walls in the design.
Burroughs said, there likely will be at least two current driveways exiting onto West Main Street that will be closed off.
That is in line with managing access to West Main Street, but it also will give businesses more parking area using what are now driveways, he said.
Alderman Rick Prentice asked about provisions for pedestrians to cross West Main Street.
Burroughs replied that there are no provisions.
"This looks so beautiful and everything," Prentice said. "We are encouraging people to use the sidewalks, … and you are still going to have people jaywalking across the street, dodging traffic."
Mayor Bill Cypert explained that AHTD controls everything about a state highway. Repeated requests for a crosswalk at South Pine and First streets have been denied.
Long said he believes it "essential" to eliminate as many driveways as possible; that it is important not to eliminate banner posts to the point of appearing to have run out of funds; and the city should consider adding to the project to extend it to Tenth Street.
Taking on the extension now would be more efficient than leaving a portion to be completed later.
"I am here to tell you, that if you don’t complete it when you start it, it is going to be hard to come back to it," he said. "It may be cost-prohibitive. We may not be able to figure out a way to put it in the budget, but I would sure like for us to take a look at that."
Cypert agreed with Long, saying he would have the city engineer develop estimates on the cost.
"We are fine tuning the bond issue … I may go back and add that to the bond issue," he said.