Plans revised to ease Jonesboro's traffic woes

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - City administrators have reprioritized plans to remedy traffic woes in Jonesboro.

According to the Jonesboro Capacity Improvements Projects report:

"...six projects have been prioritized from the list of critical projects first presented to (Arkansas Highway Transportation Department) staff in Spring 2013."

At that time, the emphasis was on three projects: extension of Commerce Drive to Highway 49, construction of a rail grade separation at Highway 18 and Nettleton, and replacement of the existing two lane bridge on South Caraway with a five lane bridge.

Since that time, working with Mayor Harold Perrin, the staff has continued to refine the project list, with one major change: Although the Commerce Drive project is still believed to be important long-term to help relieve traffic on Stadium Boulevard, we are told initial modeling conducted by AHTD staff indicated little relief would occur in the short-term."

Jonesboro Traffic Engineer Mark Nichols says the revised $20 million plan downgrades the importance of the Commerce Drive project in favor of projects that will have a more immediate impact on drivers.

"It was evident that we needed to step back and analyze the situation deeper and maybe tackle some projects that had some key bottlenecks before moving on to Commerce. However, we still see that Commerce needs to be done," he said.

Adding a lane to Highway 351 is one of the six projects in which city administrators hope to secure funding from AHTD. According to Nichols, the project would cost $1.75 million and ease congestion for more than 30,000 vehicles a day.

"We're requesting from the Highway Department to add a southbound lane from Hilltop that would extend all the way to Johnson," Nichols said. "Southbound traffic on Highway 351 would no longer have to yield to Highway 49 traffic. They would simply merge onto Highway 49 in their own lane that would start there."

A railroad overpass at Highland Drive and Nettleton is the most expensive of the six projects, costing an estimated $12 million. According to city's report, the crossing averages more than 25 trains a day and causes an average delay of more than two hours.

According to the report, "The City proposes to use $10 million of its share of the proceeds of the ½ cent sales tax, to provide 50% of the funding for the projects." Nichols says the city expects to hear from AHTD within three to four months concerning funding.

"The Highway Department will take traffic counts at these locations and they'll analyze it to see if they think these are good projects and if they feel like they can partner with us on them," he said.

Nichols encourages the public to read the report and offer input about the projects.

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