City Planners Wrestling Over Traffic

April 21, 2003
Posted at: 10:45 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Driving in Jonesboro, especially during peak traffic times, can be frustrating. City leaders are tasked with the chore to alleviate not only the current problems, but future ones as well.

City officials are turning to civic engineers who will study traffic flow. Before the traffic improvement study can begin, however, city leaders have to decide who will oversee the project.

Thanks to residential and commercial development in southwest Jonesboro, officials are being forced to widen roads in the area, causing traffic flow to change.

"There's just a lot of development pressure right now," Ernie Peters, of the engineering firm Peters & Associates, said. "The street infrastructure just isn't built to accommodate that."

City leaders now have to decide if Peters', or another traffic engineering firm is best suited to make sure the problem is fixed.

"This is a very unique type of civil engineering," James Collins of Kimley-Horn Associates said. "There's not too many firms around that have the capabilities of doing this kind of stuff."

The engineers will be studying an area bordered on the east side by Stadium Boulevard, on the north by Highway 63 and Woodsprings Road, and to the south by Lawson Road.

All of the firms have completed projects in Jonesboro before, but only one is based in the city.

"We can get or be more successful in getting the input from people; from developers to folks that don't want the road to go right down their front yard," Mike Cameron with Associated Engineering & Testing said.

All the engineering firms say one of the biggest problems with Jonesboro's traffic is that there's enough roads going north and south, but not enough streets going east and west. The only main one right now is Highway 63. After the Southern Hills Mall is opened, traffic problems will only get worse.

"We've worked with both that developer and the city trying to effect a connection from Highway 49 to the east on Keller's Chapel Road," Peters said. "I think that's going to be a very important route."

Cameron says that any plan needs to address Jonesboro's long-term needs in the future.

"What we need to be looking at is what else may come along as a generator," he said.
"To try to project that, try to look with the land use plan that so many citizens had input into, to look at that and try to project the future."

"Probably the biggest thing is going to be the public involvement portion of it," Collins said. "The technical part of it, we can handle that. That's not an issue at all."

Public input will be important for the project, but only members of the city's Nominating and Rules Committee will be ranking the three engineering firms. Mayor Hubert Brodell will negotiate details of the project with the chosen firm. Committee members hope to make their decision in about a week.