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Author Topic: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study  (Read 1240 times)

Razorback19

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ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« on: January 09, 2022, 04:16:34 PM »

The Arkansas Department of Transportation has put on indefinite hold a feasibility study for a new highway to connect the Bella Vista Bypass and the Springdale Northern Bypass or U.S. 412 via the area of the Northwest Arkansas National Airport.


Dave Parker, a highway department spokesman, said the study was put on hold for a couple of reasons.
"One, there is no funding attached to it, and the study itself had created a misunderstanding and worry by the local residents so, in the best interest of the public, we decided to put it on hold," Parker said.
Parker said planning studies are done very early in the process of any highway project and this one was no exception.
"You do a planning study and that project, if it ever is adopted, it could be 20 years before construction happens," Parker said.


He said the study could be resurrected in the future, if warranted.
"All I can say is it's on hold. Whether it would get revisited tomorrow or in 10 years, I have no idea," Parker said.
Tim Conklin, assistant director at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, said that while there were no immediate plans, or money, to build the road, there is still a critical need to plan now for how and where people will get around the area in coming years. Planners are expecting close to a million residents in the region by 2045 with more than half of those living in Benton County.
"Many of the roads in Benton County that are two-lane, rural, open-ditch highways that are facing significant development pressure and urbanization are going to need to be improved to accommodate that growth," Conklin said. "I understand they're pausing right now, but in the future, we need to better understand what is going to be needed to handle that growth."
Conklin said a big part of their long-range transportation plan involves looking at improving the highway system in Benton County and elsewhere in Northwest Arkansas to meet anticipated needs.

The study started in the summer of 2019 to determine if a highway is needed, to identify feasible alternative routes and to develop cost estimates. The department came up with two alternatives that were presented for public comment in August 2021.
One was near Northwest Arkansas National Airport. The second starts at the proposed future airport access road and runs west of the airport, then north, connecting with the Bella Vista Bypass at Hiwasse or east of town.
At the time, highway officials said those two routes would provide greater benefit to the transportation system by providing connectivity and access, travel time savings and system redundancy. They also would have the least impact on communities and the environment. Another alternative, which was dismissed, would have run almost directly north, passing west of the airport and connecting with the Bella Vista Bypass at Hiwasse.

The study area looked at an oval-shaped area west of Bentonville and Arkansas 112 and east of Springtown, Decatur and Gravette. It stretched from the Bella Vista Bypass on the north to U.S. 412 on the south. The airport sits roughly in the middle.
Census data for smaller cities in or near the study area show five towns have had large population gains since 2010.
The 2040 Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Transportation Plan, developed by Regional Planning, proposes north-south corridor improvements within the study area west of Interstate 49.
The main goal of a proposed road was to improve connectivity with secondary goals of improving mobility, relieving congestion, improving safety and reliability and strengthening the region's economic competitiveness, according to the highway department.
The study was somewhat related to another Transportation Department study looking at an access road to Northwest Arkansas National Airport. The Arkansas Department of Transportation expects to start right-of-way acquisition sometime this year and hopes to have a new, improved connection between the airport and Springdale Northern Bypass in Benton County done within five years, officials said in October.

The preferred route would be about 3.4 miles and have no entrance or exit ramps between the beginning and end. On the northern end, at the airport, the new road will narrow to two lanes near Malone Road and there will be a signaled intersection at Airport Boulevard and Arkansas 264. Down the road, a larger interchange is envisioned to accommodate future traffic.
Almost 242 acres of right-of-way would be required. Construction is estimated to cost $79.7 million and right-of-way acquisition another $5.8 million for a total of $85.6 million. That compares to an estimated $66.7 million for a partial new route and $57.1 million to improve existing roads.

An earlier environmental assessment looked at several alternatives including doing nothing; building a new road; improving existing roads, including Arkansas 112 and Arkansas 264; and a combination of a new road and improving Arkansas 112 and Arkansas 264.
The Department of Transportation is expected to design, build and pay for the project as part of the highway improvement program approved by voters.

The plans call for the airport access road to connect to the Springdale Northern Bypass west of the Arkansas 112 interchange. Plans are to have the Springdale Northern Bypass extended west to connect with U.S. 412, close to Old Highway 68, within the next five years as well. Right-of-way acquisition for that project is underway.

A 2011 study found a western beltway from the Bella Vista Bypass to Interstate 49 in the Greenland area will be needed some day, but no money was identified for the project.

https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2022/jan/09/highway-department-shelves-western-north-south/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter_nwademgaz
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Bobby5280

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2022, 04:27:14 PM »

If the population growth forecasts live up to their predications not only will they need to build one more super highways to better connect the NWA National Airport, but the airport itself will need dramatic expansion.
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MikieTimT

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2022, 10:52:16 AM »

This will happen within 10 years whether the ranchers who live along the way like it or not.  Growth is mostly west of I-49 now, so it's inevitable.  It was likely a hard sell at this point given that there was no access anywhere between the bypasses, so who wants a road bisecting their area with no benefit from it whatsoever?  They should have at least had an interchange with AR-102 for local access.  This has the look of being the precursor (Phase 1) for the Northwest Arkansas Western Beltway, so it's not yet needed, but in a 15-20 year horizon given growth patterns and trajectory, it'll happen.  And when it does, it'll start in Benton County, pretty much on the alignment alternatives offered here.
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Bobby5280

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2022, 11:39:10 AM »

A NWA beltway is never going to happen if local leaders sit on their thumbs allowing all the available ROW on potential corridor paths to get covered with new development. It will turn into a mess kind of like the US-380 corridor thru the Northern parts of the DFW metroplex.

If they were smart they would start targeting some key arterials with mandatory zoning set-backs for any new property developments. Plus, it wouldn't hurt if they started buying up some ROW while it was still possible. If they take the usual approach of wasting a decade or more dancing around with red tape before lifting a shovel they won't have any chance at all to build anything.

I think the trick is transitioning in a new super highway corridor. Start it off small with just a 2 lane road with a bunch of space off to the side. And a second surface street off to the other edge later. The freeway can plop down in the middle years later when funding is available to build it.
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MikieTimT

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2022, 11:51:46 AM »

A NWA beltway is never going to happen if local leaders sit on their thumbs allowing all the available ROW on potential corridor paths to get covered with new development. It will turn into a mess kind of like the US-380 corridor thru the Northern parts of the DFW metroplex.

If they were smart they would start targeting some key arterials with mandatory zoning set-backs for any new property developments. Plus, it wouldn't hurt if they started buying up some ROW while it was still possible. If they take the usual approach of wasting a decade or more dancing around with red tape before lifting a shovel they won't have any chance at all to build anything.

I think the trick is transitioning in a new super highway corridor. Start it off small with just a 2 lane road with a bunch of space off to the side. And a second surface street off to the other edge later. The freeway can plop down in the middle years later when funding is available to build it.

That's what likely will happen.  They will just repackage this proposal in a couple of years when they're building out the western leg of the Springdale Northern Bypass (AR-612), maybe add the missing AR-102 interchange.  Then, when that's done, there will be enough traffic to immediately start on the other 2 lanes.  Then, they'll need to start the segment south of AR-612 as that area is growing too, it's just about 3-5 years behind Benton County's growth.  It'll run roughly down Harmon Rd. to between Farmington and Prairie Grove, then swing back east to connect to I-49 around Greenland to complete the western beltway.  It'll likely be the first x49, unless Joplin/Carthage knock out an interchange in Carthage and beat Arkansas to the punch with MO-171/249.
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Life in Paradise

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2022, 12:04:11 PM »

I agree with looking at this closer and at least securing the ROW for much of the prospective route.  It will only get much more expensive as time goes on and development may bar some areas, so that if the ROW is already owned, they won't have that problem.  Construction will be expensive enough without worrying about the spiking cost of land needed.
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MikieTimT

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2022, 02:09:22 PM »

I agree with looking at this closer and at least securing the ROW for much of the prospective route.  It will only get much more expensive as time goes on and development may bar some areas, so that if the ROW is already owned, they won't have that problem.  Construction will be expensive enough without worrying about the spiking cost of land needed.

That ship has pretty much sailed.  It'll get worse, though.
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Wayward Memphian

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2022, 03:38:43 PM »

If the population growth forecasts live up to their predications not only will they need to build one more super highways to better connect the NWA National Airport, but the airport itself will need dramatic expansion.


The Airport has already stated they are working toward a terminal expansion with up to 26 gates as they expected 2 million enplaments by 2045. They were just shy of 1 million in 2019.

Zwieg, a developer and instructor at the U of A mentioned that the growth rate projection  was now 10% annually in the short term in a piece he wrote for Arkansas Talk Busineas and Politics. That's an increase from the 2045 projections. God help us. Forget connector, we need to be talking complete loop south of US 412/Sonora between Fayetteville and Elkins to the Drake Field/ Greenland aream
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Bobby5280

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2022, 04:45:41 PM »

They're going to end up needing to add more runways in addition to doing a terminal expansion.

And, yeah, a whole lot more than just an airport connector highway will be needed in the region. Some kind of loop or partial loop for I-49 would be in the cards. The US-412/AR-612 corridor will need to run fully through the region as a 100% limited access highway. The Interstate designation seems likely from I-49 going West into Oklahoma. Going East is a little more questionable on what ultimately should be built.
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MikieTimT

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2022, 04:59:17 PM »

If the population growth forecasts live up to their predications not only will they need to build one more super highways to better connect the NWA National Airport, but the airport itself will need dramatic expansion.


The Airport has already stated they are working toward a terminal expansion with up to 26 gates as they expected 2 million enplaments by 2045. They were just shy of 1 million in 2019.

Zwieg, a developer and instructor at the U of A mentioned that the growth rate projection  was now 10% annually in the short term in a piece he wrote for Arkansas Talk Busineas and Politics. That's an increase from the 2045 projections. God help us. Forget connector, we need to be talking complete loop south of US 412/Sonora between Fayetteville and Elkins to the Drake Field/ Greenland aream

There's not much room on the east side of Fayetteville/Springdale that isn't already built out all the way to the edge of the White River watershed.  It's a pretty big drop from the east edge of the Illinois/Arkansas River watershed down to the White River, which is right on the west edge of it's watershed, so terrain is pretty craggy over there unless you have a pair of White River crossings, at least.  I'd wager that I-49 gets bypassed to the west long before it happens to the east, primarily due to terrain and the population growth happening most west of I-49 than east at this point.  The White River/Beaver Lake is somewhat of an impediment to organic growth, but it'll happen that way regardless as there's a fairly sizable population that wants to be near a lake/river.  It just makes the commute a little less direct, especially on the east side of Beaver Lake.  There's only the AR-12 crossing of Beaver Lake north of US-412, otherwise, you take US-62 around the north end.  The further east you go from I-49, the more you're in the Boston Mountains, so the western side of Washington and Benton counties will infill much faster.  Growth to the east happens primarily along US-412 and AR-45 all the way to Huntsville.
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Wayward Memphian

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2022, 03:13:41 PM »

If the population growth forecasts live up to their predications not only will they need to build one more super highways to better connect the NWA National Airport, but the airport itself will need dramatic expansion.


The Airport has already stated they are working toward a terminal expansion with up to 26 gates as they expected 2 million enplaments by 2045. They were just shy of 1 million in 2019.

Zwieg, a developer and instructor at the U of A mentioned that the growth rate projection  was now 10% annually in the short term in a piece he wrote for Arkansas Talk Busineas and Politics. That's an increase from the 2045 projections. God help us. Forget connector, we need to be talking complete loop south of US 412/Sonora between Fayetteville and Elkins to the Drake Field/ Greenland aream

They are planning a cross wind runway but don't count on another north/south any time soon. XNA has it all laid out fairly orderly, apron expansion, relocation and new ATC tower, terminal expansion, on site hotel and the crosswind runway.

Breeze should be announcing their first A223 routes soon, as they have 4 on hand now and flights should start 2Q 2022. Let's hope we see Bay Area and Seattle added.

Delta is flying their 108 seater  A221s on Seattle/DC, these planes have some serious range.
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Tomahawkin

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2022, 03:54:22 PM »

OT does anyone know if Wal-Mart has all the rights allocated to warehouses out in NWA? Or Could Amazon partake in warehouse developments? A fulfillment center would go right in line with the development of this corridor. Especially with the proximity of XNA
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The Ghostbuster

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2022, 04:49:34 PM »

If the North-South Connector ends up not being constructed (such as if they fail to preserve the proposed roadway's right-of-way, and it gets developed instead), would it be possible to expand some of the existing roads in the area to four lanes?
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MikieTimT

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2022, 04:55:21 PM »

OT does anyone know if Wal-Mart has all the rights allocated to warehouses out in NWA? Or Could Amazon partake in warehouse developments? A fulfillment center would go right in line with the development of this corridor. Especially with the proximity of XNA

Amazon already has bought a warehouse in NWA.  In Lowell, but not far from XNA using a completed AR-612 western leg and connector road as is in the works.

https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2021/12/28/confirmed-amazon-adding-facility-near-walmart-hq-in-northwest-arkansas
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Tomahawkin

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Re: ARDOT shelves western north-south connector study
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2022, 06:17:04 PM »

Thanks for that 411. I'm a late bloomer to Amazon but it's so much more convenient than going to Walmart...
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