JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Are traffic projects in Jonesboro slowing down or speeding up? The Jonesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization held a public forum Tuesday on that very topic.
Director of the Jonesboro MPO Erica Tait said this is part of gathering the information they need.
"So, we're here today to just let the public review the projects that have been selected," Tait said. "Based on a process having to do with the Highway Department and the Federal Government, transit agencies and local elected officials. And we want the public to be able to comment and ask questions about some of the projects and look at the maps and see what areas the projects are going to be in, funding and those kinds of things."
Tait said Jonesboro's population is what makes their organization necessary.
"The Transportation Planning Process is a federally mandated process," Tait said. "Any urbanized area with a population of greater than 50,000 has an MPO. The MPO works with the local communities, local elected officials, the Highway Department, transit organizations to come up with needs in the community. For instance, Our population is growing rapidly and we're noticing a little more congestion, a little more brake time on some major roads. And so, the local elected officials and the Highway Department and members of the MPO come together and talk about solutions and things that could address those issues."
Tait said Tuesday's public forum focused on immediate projects.
"Our major plans include Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which is long term, 20 years," Tait said. "The Transportation Improvement Plan, which is why we're here today, looks at the first five years of that 20 year plan. One of the big projects is finishing the Highway 18 overpass. The construction of that overpass is in our plan today. As well as area intersection improvements for Caraway and Main, also at Southwest Drive and Main near the high school are two other projects that are in our short term plan."
Tait said people often don't understand how complex the projects are.
"The first couple of years are pretty certain about what projects will be complete," Tait said. "But after you get beyond that there could be some changes. Also, all the project costs are estimates because a lot of the projects are still in the planning phase and we're not quite sure how much construction will cost, utility relocation and those types of things. Another thing I'd like people to know is these projects have been discussed for several years. They're in our long term plan, which is why we have maps here talking about that."
Jonesboro resident Rick Cheshier said his main concern is the traffic and congestion a future project could create.
"One of their projects really kind of impacts us pretty drastically," Cheshier said. "The widening of the 351 Highway. We own property on that and we do know how heavily traveled it is. And we see the congestion every day there at Hilltop. We wonder why they keep wanting to just keep on pouring money into 351 when we think our approach is to take and completely relocate 351 at the intersection of Johnson and take it north. We know that that's fairly expensive to do it. I think they've got $7 million earmarked. When you look at how long the stretch of road that it's going to be, just for a shorter distance they could take and get something completely straighter, a lot more level and tie into Greensboro Road further up closer to Sage Meadows."
Tait said their organization is there to meet the community's current and future needs.
"The end goal is to enhance transportation infrastructure in the area," Tait said. "Whether that be sidewalks, highways, public transportation to enhance that so that the community can grow economically and also have a greater quality of life."
Despite his concern for the 351 project, Cheshier said he was pleased with the fact that they hold several public forums.
"I think it's a good idea," Cheshier said. "I think people need to have input in what they're going to do, what the future is going to hold for them."
Another Public Forum will take place on Thursday, March 31 at the United Way building in Downtown Jonesboro from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.