Cities Step Up to Improve Region’s Traffic Network

Four Northwest Arkansas cities are making major road improvements that should improve traffic flow in the region.

The accomplishments of Fayetteville and Springdale in recent days will be matched by new projects in Rogers and Bentonville that are just now starting to take shape.

Springdale earlier today opened the Don Tyson Parkway connection to Interstate 49, and Fayetteville opened a flyover last week that allows northbound College Avenue motorists to more easily reach I-49. Both of those projects are considered important to traffic flow within those communities, but they also should benefit the region as a whole because they make it easier to reach I-49.

The Don Tyson Parkway’s $22 million connection to I-49 allows motorists to move from the far reaches of eastern Springdale to the interstate with less delay. It also will pull some east-west traffic off U.S. 412 (Sunset Avenue in Springdale) to the north and Johnson Mill Boulevard to the south by providing a more direct route to I-49 for some commuters.

In Fayetteville, the city’s flyover was a $6.3 million project. Funding from the 2005 federal highway bill paid for 80 percent of the project. The city covered the remainder.

The flyover, which is highlighted in this KFSM-TV story, should reduce traffic at College’s intersection with Joyce Boulevard near the Northwest Arkansas Mall. It’s one of the busiest, most contested intersections in the entire region, and much of the congestion was caused by northbound drivers on College who made U-turns so they could go south and then west to reach I-49. Those U-turns should be less frequent because motorists can use the flyover instead.

“The traffic studies estimated that about 25 percent of left turns at Joyce are U-turns, and we expect those U-turns to be reduced to near zero,” said City Engineer Chris Brown.

Rogers and Bentonville, meanwhile, are acquiring land and moving utilities to prepare for large road construction projects that are planned.

Rogers is moving utility lines this year for three projects worth a combined $36 million scheduled for completion in 2016. Those utility relocations are the beginning of two projects that will widen portions of Perry and Bellview roads. The third project — one that will straighten out Monte Ne Road from Oak Street to New Hope Road in the eastern part of the city — is the largest at $15 million.

Bentonville started the right-of-way appraisal process in May for land it will need to build an Eighth Street interchange at I-49. Two-lane Eighth Street, from I-49 to Southwest I Street, will be widened to five lanes or four lanes with a center median, depending on the location. A KHOG-TV story from last year described the project that's planned in the city.

The $53 million project involves city, state, federal and private funds. There’s lots of work that must occur before construction can start in late 2016 or early 2017 as the city must acquire land and relocate utilities.

Major projects such as those in the region are necessary to significantly reduce delays as the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area’s population earlier this year surged past 500,000 residents.

A 2012 study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which was commissioned by the Northwest Arkansas Council, showed traffic congestion in Benton and Washington counties costs about $103 million each year. Regions with similar populations have congestion costs near $60 million annually, the researchers said.