JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) recently awarded a $500,000 grant to Arkansas State University to expand its pedestrian and cyclist paths.
"Our current system is a little over eight miles of shared road and shared multi-use paths and marked trails," said Bill Smith, executive director of marketing and communications for A-State. "What this grant will do is allow us to begin construction on several new sections that will connect us to the west side of campus and out the northeast corner of campus. It will take us a long way to expanding our overall footprint."
Smith said more students than ever before want to use a bike as their mode of transportation.
"They are extremely important to our millennial direction students," Smith said. "We know this is the first generation of Americans with a smaller percentage of drivers licenses than the previous generation. We know students coming to campus want to ride safely. They want to commute safely. And by helping us build these paths we're going to be able to accommodate a growing number of students that want to ride their bike for transportation."
Joel Haynes, a student majoring in business administration, is thrilled over the future expansion.
"I think it's excellent," Haynes said. "I go into the city a lot. I've got my own car, but I've always wanted to try biking in there. But I just don't think there's an easy way right now. The bike paths on campus seem to be working fine for me, but I can definitely see there's room for improvements."
Smith said A-State is also one of just a few to receive this amount of money.
"We're really excited about this half-million-dollar grant," Smith said. "It is one of only eight in the state of Arkansas that is the maximum allocation that is provided from the federal government through the state highway department. We also know this is one of the only maximum grants in the northeast part of the state of Arkansas. So, we're very excited that the state has decided that we're being good stewards and are helping us expand our program."
Smith said after they put in the current bike and walking paths they saw a massive increase in bike riders.
"Since we've instituted PAC paths we've seen a considerable number of increases in students that like to use their bike," Smith said. "First it was to get around campus, but now there are more and more of them that use them to commute onto campus from out in the Jonesboro area."
Smith said they would be connecting the ASU campus to the city of Jonesboro.
"Having this grant allows us to build better connections at the perimeter of our campus to the city," Smith said. "Hopefully, as the city moves forward with perhaps getting their city-wide transportation plan in place. We're currently doing construction on the west side of campus. It will connect University Loop West all the way out to Aggie Road as the last phase of the Marion Berry overpass project. This PAC paths project is going to move alongside that and be a connection for students, faculty, and staff to Aggie Road on the west side and toward downtown."
Smith said this expansion would not only help their students but the Jonesboro community.
"It's vital for the community," Smith said. "It can be a great transit point from the east to the west side of the city of Jonesboro in this northern part of town. And we're hoping this is going to provide that safe passage for riders and walkers."
Smith said they will now begin the engineering and design phase of the project.
He says the project will take several months to possibly a year or so.
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