Ozone Action Days, CNG buses and widening of some state highways in northwest Lonoke County near Cabot were among the items on the agenda of the April 30 Metroplan board of directors meeting.

Highways were the major topic. Casey Covington, Metroplan transportation planner, presented a review of the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

The review was called for at the March board of directors meeting to begin planning for Metroplan’s part in the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) 2016-2019 STIP.

The STIP is a four-year improvement program that includes all federally funded transportation projects as well as locally funded projects in the Central Arkansas Regional Transportation System (CARTS) area. To be eligible for federal funding projects must be part of the TIP.

Among the Regional Arterial Network (RAN) proposals for the TIP are the widening of Arkansas Highway 107 to Little Rock Air Force Base; Arkansas Highway 321 at Cabot between Arkansas Highways 5 and 89; Arkansas Highway 89 at Cabot; and Arkansas Highway 5 north of Highway 89.

Jointly funded, or partnering, projects in the STIP include the Cabot North Terminal Interchange, as well as possible interchange improvements at the Vandenberg interchange in Jacksonville and the Arkansas Highway 5 and 321 are on the list.

The list will be open for 30 days for public comment; the final recommendations will be reviewed for approval at the June meeting.

In discussion of Interstate Highway improvements approved by the Arkansas Highway Commission, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines cautioned that the customary practice of adding more traffic lanes to relieve congestion could be at an end.

It is getting to the point that, "We can’t build them wide enough," Villines said, and building and maintaining a viable community will require other solutions.

If the answer to traffic planning is only building wider highways, "You are going to have further disruption to your community’s urban core. If there is going to be a study done, let’s look at alternatives to widening the highway and destroying the livability of the community," Villines said.

Covington remarked that the greatest concern for Metroplan, as the metropolitan planning organization, is to involve the community in developing any plans.

Judy Watts, community involvement coordinator spoke the upcoming Ozone Action season, which begins May 1.

May 1 is start of the Ozone Action season, beginning the annual Ditch the Keys campaign to bring attention to alternative transportation options and promote healthy activities that do not involve taking a trip in a motor-driven vehicle, all to reduce ground-level ozone, Watts said.

The Ditch the Keys Website, ditchthekeys.com, is now up and available to use, Watts said.

Ditch the Keys Week will be May 10-16 and will promote carpooling, walking to school, riding a bus,

Ozone Action Days is a program by Metroplan, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Arkansas Department of Health, and Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department to bring attention to health risks associated with ozone exposure, and to encourage voluntary actions to reduce emissions that create ground-level ozone.

The kickoff program is Ditch the Keys Week, May 10-16. During the week, Arkansans are asked to find alternate ways of traveling to work or school; a different mode of transportation is highlighted each day: May 10 - Bike/Walk Summit; May 11 - Car-Free Sunday; May 12 - carpool to school/work; May 12 – 11 a.m. – 1 p.m, CATA How to Ride the Bus Clinic; May 13 - Walk to school/work; May 14 - Ride the bus to school/work; May 15 - car-free lunch; May 16 - Bike to Work Day.

The week ends with Bike-to-Work Day convoys throughout central Arkansas. A 7:30 a.m. press conference is to bring attention to Ozone Action Days; breakfast will follow at the Capital Hotel, provided free for all Bike-to-Work Day participants.

Businesses and municipal governments are asked to take part in the event, Watts said.

Registration can be done at ditchthekeys.com