Friday, May 26, 2017

TOP STORY >> Plans unveiled for next phase

Leader senior staff writer

About 150 people turned out Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center to review and discuss plans with state Highway and Transportation Department specialists for widening Hwy. 67/167 from the Main Street overpass to the Vandenberg interchange — the last of a four-phase project from I-40 to state Hwy. 5 in Cabot.

The job would improve 2.25 miles of Hwy. 67/167, including interchange improvements at Main Street, James Street, Gregory Street and Vandenberg Boulevard at a cost of $122 million.

The work is slated to begin in 2019 and for completion in 2022.

The widening — from two lanes north and two south to three lanes each — began with the section from I-40, past McCain Boulevard and Kiehl Avenue to just south of Redmond Road and is complete.

The second phase, beginning at the Redmond Road interchange and running just north of the Main Street overpass, is well underway and should be done sometime next year.

Preliminary work has begun on the segment from north of Vandenberg to Cabot and the Thursday meeting was to discuss the final link — and perhaps the most challenging — from the Main Street overpass to the Vandenberg interchange.

The widening requires replacing bridges and overpasses along the way, changing the alignment of on- and off-ramps and the conversion of T.P. White and John Harden frontage roads between Main and Vandenberg to one-way frontage roads.

While there is still an opportunity for a little fine tuning, the alternatives have boiled down to “build” and “don’t build,” Danny Straessle, the highway department’s communications director said.


At this point the build alternative “includes system-wide improvements necessary to improve the traffic flow and safety of this corridor,” according to the department.

Without the work, congestion on the main sections of the highway is projected to rate “E” and “F” — the worst levels of service — by 2041 during morning and evening peak hours where passing is impossible and the slowest moving vehicle controls the travel speed. Most of the signalized study intersections are expected to operate at an overall level of service of “F” during the peak hours.

The build alternative would potentially require the relocation of three residential owner occupants, six businesses, and two business landlords, according to Highway Department documents.

“The six businesses impacted include an animal hospital, a nail salon, hair salon, tobacco shop, tax office, and a donut shop,” according to the report.

It would require purchase of approximately 19.2 acres of right of way from 129 properties and 11 relocations. Total residential and business relocation costs with the Build Alternative are estimated at $627,500 (in 2016 dollars).

The AHTD also has a new Hwy. 67/167 interchange programed at state Hwy. 5/321, just west of Cabot. 

$122.7M TOTAL

Construction costs in 2016 dollars for the Main Street through Vandenberg interchange is $89 million, plus $11.5 million in utility relocation costs and $22.2 million in right-of-way costs for a total of $122.7 million.

Work continues on replacing the two Main Street overpasses, the scene of many accidents including at least one death in recent years.

Congestion at the Vanden-berg interchange — the main gateway to the Little Rock Air Force Base should receive some relief by the 2022 completion of that final phase, according to Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.

A Texas turnaround under the highway will connect the two frontage roads and better traffic lights will help move traffic through that bottleneck, Fletcher said.

A left-turn signal for traffic from John Harden and Toneyville will help, as will better coordination and flow from North First Street and from T.P. White Drive.

Businesses are wary of the proposed changes, the mayor said, including motel owners.


“It’s not a perfect plan,” he said, alluding to what he called “the fear factor,” Fletcher said. They fear that one-way frontage roads will hurt business, but he said the same fears by businesses on frontage roads in the McMain Road were proven to be unfounded and that many new businesses have opened along those roads.

Fletcher said he was meeting with business owners and operators, including motel managers, later Friday.

He said he has issues with the sizing of some drainage culverts and placement of some on or off ramps.


The department will be accepting comments by mail, Attn. Jon Hetzel, 4701 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, Ark. 72118 or by email Info@ConnectingArkansas until 4:30 p.m. June 9.

State Rep. Bob Johnson of Jacksonville, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams and Cabot Alderman Douglas Warner were among the officials who joined Fletcher at the meeting.

The following changes can be viewed in annotated figures 9-12 at


Here are the changes on the Highway Department’s aerial photos:

Northbound — starting at Main Street, major changes include turning T.P. White Drive into a one-way frontage road all the way to Vanden-berg Boulevard; relocating the northbound off ramp to 2,000 feet south of James Street; relocate northbound on ramp to 450 feet south of James; north of James, T.P. White continues as a one-way frontage road.


Then north of James Street and North Bailey Street, a northbound off-ramp passes in front of Gwatney Chevrolet onto the frontage road, which then passes under a new Gregory Street overpass reconnecting the halves of Gregory Street.

The northbound on-ramp will be relocated north of Gregory Street from its current locations between James Street and Gregory Street. Then, north Second Street is extended to T.P. White Drive, which continues as the one-way northbound frontage road.

A dedicated turnaround lane from northbound T.P. White will pass under the existing Vandenberg Boule-vard overpass, merging onto the southbound one-way John Harden Drive frontage road.

Meanwhile, the T.P. White Drive approach at the intersection of Vandenberg and North First Street will be eliminated.

North of Vandenberg, T.P. White will be remain a two-way frontage road and north of Madden Road, a new northbound off ramp will be constructed at the existing location of the current on ramp.

Southbound — traffic can get off the improved ramp just north of Vandenberg Boulevard or else exit on the ramp between James and Gregory streets.


To get onto the southbound highway from Vanden-berg, traffic can use the on-ramp 1,700 feet south of Vandenberg.

Existing roadway will be modified to allow traffic from the Walmart Supercenter to intersect with Gregory Street, which would allow motorists to take the new Gregory Street overpass across the highway join North First Street.

The existing southbound on ramp will be removed. Southbound highway traffic can exit onto the one-way southbound John Harden frontage road 1,000 feet before James Street.

About 300 feet south of James Street overpass, highway traffic can exit in time for North Metro Medical Center.

The southbound onramp will be relocated 2,200 feet south of James.

Part of the existing phase I work, John Harden Drive will stop at Marshall Road at New China restaurant.