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State seeks input on road study from public

The Arkansas Department of Transportation will solicit public information on potential improvements to four King Expressway interchanges from 4-7 p.m. today at Transportation Depot, 100 Broadway Terrace.

The open house is part of the planning study Hot Springs and Garland County each committed $50,000 to from their local shares of the $54,695,000 bond issue voters approved in a June 2016 special election. The Department of Transportation contracted Alliance Transportation Group to conduct the study, which will bear on which projects the city and county decide to fund with their respective shares of the bond proceeds.

Per an interlocal agreement, they have both earmarked $1,925,000 to partner with the state for improvements to the Airport Road interchange, which, according to information presented during the advocacy campaign for the half-cent sales tax securing the capital improvement bonds, has an average daily traffic count of 37,000 vehicles, making it the county's most-trafficked area.

Before they commit to the interchange project, the city and county need to know if their population-based shares are sufficient to partner with the state. Their allotments, $12.4 million for the county and $7.3 million for the city, may go to other projects if the interchange improvements prove too costly.

Department spokesman Danny Straessle said input solicited today will be used to determine if the interchange needs to be improved. The interchanges at Albert Pike Road, Central Avenue and Higdon Ferry Road are also part of the study.

"This is a very early task in the planning study that will help us understand the needs and constraints within the study area," Straessle said. "At this stage, the team has not even begun to explore improvement alternatives.

"If it is determined that improvements are warranted, improvements alternatives will be developed."

He said a second public involvement meeting will be held if the study determines any of the interchanges need to be improved.

"At that time, improvement alternatives will be shown to the public for feedback," he said.

The 2016-2020 State Transportation Improvement Program has not committed funds to any of the interchange projects, Straessle said.

Most of the bond issue is dedicated to partnering with the state on the 5.16-mile, two-lane extension of the expressway from the Highway 70 east interchange to the junction of highways 5 and 7. The interlocal agreement commits $30 million to partner with the state on the extension, which is estimated to cost more than $60 million.

Local on 02/13/2018

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