Metroplan seeking public input for Central Arkansas Regional Greenways project
Metroplan, Central Arkansas’ planning commission, is asking for feedback on its project to connect the cities in the region.
Interactive maps of the proposed trails and the public survey can be found at https://www.centralarkgreenways.com/.
Tab Townsell, executive director of Metroplan, said city and county governments will be responsible for building out the proposed trail. Townsell said public comments will help local governments get a better picture of the areas the proposed trails will go through.
“That’s one of the important aspects of this, it’s supposed to be safe for anybody from eight to 80,” Townsell said in an interview. “It’s not going to be peddling in traffic like you see some bicyclists do.”
The Regional Greenways project was approved by the Metroplan board of directors two years ago. The project was approved for $55 million, which is half of the agency’s funding for the next 10 years. Metroplan is using funding from the Surface Transportation Program Block Grant, a federal grant, for the regional trail system.
“The regional multi-use path system will integrate existing trails, paths, and sidewalks to make vital connections within the overall regional transportation system. It will also aim for seamless connection with the existing and future transit network. Metroplan is the agency uniquely positioned to champion this initiative,” Metroplan wrote in a press release at the time of the announcement.
Townsell said there are concerns about inflation increasing the cost of the project.
“It’s a lot more expensive now than it was a few years ago,” he said.
Townsell said the Central Arkansas Greenways Project is modeled after the Razorback Greenway in Northwest Arkansas. He said that the project cost about $1 million a mile, but it’ll be difficult to tell whether it’ll cost that much per mile since it was done a few years ago.
“It’ll depend on if there’s a bridge, underpass or something that costs more money. We’ll see if we’ll follow that idea of about $1 million a mile or inflation takes a bigger bite of the funds and opportunities we have,” Townsell said.
He added the agency will get a better idea of the impact of inflation when it begins the Southwest Trail this summer.
Metroplan will receive a $3 million annual increase in the funding it receives from the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, which will be used to fund the Regional Greenways Project. Townsell explained the increase in funding from the grant is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Biden last year.
With 160 miles of proposed new trails and 23 miles of existing trails needing to be upgraded, there are 183 total miles that will be accounted for in the Regional Greenways Project, Townsell explained.
Local governments will be required to put in one dollar for every four dollars Metroplan invests into the project, Townsell said.
Townsell said he believes the completion of the Regional Greenways Project can help recruit people to move to the region.
“People seek their lifestyle and employers seek their people, so if their people will live there, an employer can be recruited there,” Townsell said.
In the latest Census data, Townsell said Central Arkansas’ population grew at a rate below the national average and he said a trail like this would help reverse that trend.