MPO focused on upcoming projects
Military Road widening, Hino Bridge rehab on the horizon
The West Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization focused on road projects and reducing air pollution during its quarterly policy meeting in May. Arkansas Department of Transportation District 1 Engineer Rex Vines said the Interstate 40 bridge building between the city and Shearerville was set to finish.
“We’re looking at the end of June,” said Vines.
City Councilwoman Ramona Taylor asked Vines for signs on the interstates announcing tourist attractions along the river. The Big River Crossing and the Delta River Regional Park have no signs along either Interstate 55 or 40. Millions of TIGER transportation grant dollars and air quality improvement funds went into the development of the bike and pedestrian walkway connecting West Memphis to Memphis via the Harahan Bridge. The BRX opened October of 2016, but highway signage had yet to materialize on the Arkansas side.
“We want to make a request of the Highway department for Interstate signage,” said Taylor.
“There is no Interstate signage to direct you to the big River Crossing or the Delta River Regional trail and there was a lot of federal money in it; you would think we’d want to do that.”
Taylor pressed another request with Amy Heflin of the Federal Highway Administration. Taylor wanted routes from both Interstates to the riverside tourist. Getting to the west landing of the BRX from Interstate 40 entailed meandering through unmarked territory. “We’d like an exit east and west on Interstate 40, because it is almost impossible to get there from I-40,” said Taylor. “You have to do a huge loop around. The city has looked at it and we realize it is very complicated but we really think it needs to be looked at.
Again, we’ve put a lot of highway money in and right now if you are on I40, just give up.”
City Planning and Development Director Paul Luker said it might take an off ramp and on ramp interchange to be viable and considered using the unprotected side of the levee.
“We are landlocked at the Mound City Road exit,” said Luker. “It would probably be east of the levee and I know it’s expensive.
Perhaps Mound City could be improved. Even an access road across the levee to the trail would help.”
“We are blocking a lot of people from knowing about it and accessing a major asset in this county,” said Taylor.
MPO policy makers heard an update on the Hino Road bridge update. Right of way paperwork delayed the project for a year. Final planning progressed on improving the bridge deck to handle high volume trucking from the transload facility in Marion. The bridge forms part of the border between Marion and West Memphis and the two cities share in matching the grant for repairs.
“We are currently reviewing subcontractors contracts,” said West Memphis City Engineer Amanda Hicks. “We’ll have a date soon.”
Hick emphasized communication to businesses about detour information and time frames.
“We’ll be in touch as soon as we know when the beams will be shipped,” said Hicks.
Hicks also reported the South Loop extension moved forward in the environmental
process. Improvements to the Lehr Street bridge remained slated for 2019.
Planner Ed Cain brought updates on road projects in Marion. He addressed the widening Military Road and the railroad overpass planned behind the Neighborhood Walmart.
“The 30-percent plans for the structure have been sent to ARDOT and the railroad,” said Cain.
Brawley wondered about deadlines and Cain responded with reassurance on the overpass project.
“Will the 60-percent plans be done by August?” asked Brawley. “You still have to go through right-of-way issues.”
“Luckily, there are only two right-of-way owners”, said Cain.
The city and ARDOT have reached a basic agreement on the Highway 64 project.
The state committed to developing five lane approaches to Interstate exits in towns across the state.
The work on Highway 64 from Interstate 55 through Crawfordsville is an example. Plans to widen Military Road from the Interstate to Highway 77 continued to develop.
“The city and ARDOT has reached an agreement on that,” said Cain. “Basically it will be two lanes with raised median and left turn lanes at intersections.
There’ll be a bike lane on each side of the travel lanes, then a grass strip and the sidewalk. They told us they’d build it the way we wanted it, but it would cost us an additional $830,000 in right of way expense and utility relocation.”
ARDOT called for the 30percent plans from Marion and Cain said Public hearings would be part of the planning process.
Plans to address air quality to satisfy stricter standards under Congestion Mitigation Air Quality were pending a Tennessee Department of Transportation study according to Brawley. The MPO Policy Committee meets next on July 10 to adopt a transportation improvement plan, a list and calendar for upcoming road projects in the county.
By John Rech