ArDOT Officials Visit with Local Leaders
Officials with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT), the state entity formerly known as the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD), were in Piggott on Friday, Feb. 1, to visit with city leaders. The informal gathering was the second on the subject in Piggott, as ArDOT hosted a public meeting on Tuesday, June 26, concerning the long-range highway plans for the city. At issue were improvements to four intersections within the city, with the plan for the addition of roundabouts at three of those. During the late-June meeting, which was open several hours to the public at the Piggott Community Center, a variety of issues were addressed by local residents with responses from the state officials.
On Friday, recently elected Mayor Travis Williams hosted a meeting with the state officials at city hall. Also on hand were three of the council members, Jamey Parks, Kevin Jones and Tracy Cole as Jeff Benbrook was out of town and could not attend. Joined by key administrative staff, and a handful of interested employees and individuals, the state officials presented an alternative to the earlier plans. Those on hand with ArDOT were District 10 Engineer Brad Smithee, Trinity Smith, engineer of roadway design, and Michael Fugett, the assistant chief engineer.
At issue are the intersection of U.S. Highway 49/1 with U.S. 62, at the stoplight; the intersection of West Jackson and North Third Avenue, the intersection of West Jackson and Scurlock and the intersection of West North and Scurlock. In their initial plans, the state called for widening the intersection at the stoplight with mini-roundabouts earmarked for the other locations. At the time of the proposal, a number of local resident voiced concern about the project, although Smithee noted it was not sufficient enough to prompt them to scrap the plan.
“You asked us to come back with some alternative plans, and we've developed one which will allow us to just widen the curves,” he noted. “But, it should be noted that it would require more acquisition of property and more people being relocated.”
Smith indicated the department had tried to come up with a plan which met the city's needs going forward, but doesn't detract from the historic feel of the community.
“We felt you wanted to regulate traffic in a way that works for the community,” he explained. “A mini-roundabout will allow for a fairly slow, but orderly, flow of traffic and should be more pedistrian friendly. Something which plays-into the city's efforts as far as tourism.”
The problems with truck traffic through Piggott, most notably along U.S. Highway 62 West, has prompted city leaders to seek a remedy for decades.
“These are one-lane roundabouts, they won't take up as much room and the center is actually only raised a bit,” Smithee explained. “It is relatively flat and is only defined by the curbing around the outside.”
He indicated the roundabouts were designed in such a manner to allow larger trucks and farm equipment to cut across if needed, while still providing for traffic going in the other direction.
During the earlier meeting Smithee, and other officials with the department, fielded questions from the public about the amount of land needed, and how the roundabouts would impact their day-to-day lives, homes and yards.
Based on the ArDOT illustrations, very little additional space would be needed for the installation of the roundabouts—with most of the land already included in the state right-of-way. At the corner of West Jackson and North Scurlock a small parcel may be acquired, although planners are still unsure if it will come from the south or north side of the highway.
A similar plan was presented to Marmaduke city leaders last year after they sought help with the flow of traffic at the intersection of U.S. 49 and Arkansas 34.
The new plan reviewed Friday also addressed needs at the stop light, noting the movement of utility poles and the existing traffic control lights would widen the intersection greatly. Again, this would be accomplished within the state highway right-of-way, which extends from the center of the roadway. This part of the project prompted concern from councilman Jamey Parks, as it would greatly affect the parking at the family business, Cox Lumber Company. Also on hand with the firm was Tucker Myers, who outlined how reduction in parking would impact the business.
In response, Smith noted any impact would be addressed and property owners would be reimbursed if needed.
Of key concern at Friday's meeting was the cost of moving utilities, which would include electric, water and sewer for the city. Williams noted his main issue would be the cost which had to be covered by the city, although the exact amount has yet to be determined.
“We have initial estimates, but don't have any firm numbers as of yet,” he added. “But, we will share those estimates with the city as we try to determine the actual financial impact.”
Noting the city should do what's best for everyone, with an eye toward the future, Williams indicated the associated costs would play a big role in determining if the city backs the new plan.
“We're not going to come in here and force anything on the people of Piggott,” Fugett added. “You have been asking for help and we're trying to come up with a good plan. But, if the city decides they don't want to do it we won't force them.”
All four of the local projects, and several others in the region, may be found in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for 2019-2022. The complete document may be viewed at www.ardot.gov/stip/stip.aspx