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Ward roundabout plans change, again

After years of planning, Ward City Council members learned Monday that the traffic circle proposed to tame the junction of Arkansas Highway 367 with Peyton, Hickory and Griffin streets at Ward is not likely in the foreseeable future.

However, the intersection, which is further complicated by a railroad crossing, could be modified quickly by making use of federal Local Urbanized Attributed (LUZA) funds available to the city.

Council members also called for a special meeting to consider the best use of the LUZA funds available for the city that must be obligated by fall. The meeting was set for noon, July 11. Also, obligating LUZA funds now would prevent expected revenue expected from the sales tax for highway improvements being used instead, Mayor Art Brooke said.

Ward city council members learned of the change during their meeting Monday.

Brooke and aldermen Bill Moon, Lee Schoonover, Jeff Shaver, Gary Matheny and Don Howard attended the meeting.

In the city projects progress report, David Stanley, of Lemons Engineers at Cabot, told council members that the plans for traffic control at the confusing intersection of Arkansas Highways 319 and 367 will likely not, anytime soon, include a traffic circle. But some immediate relief may be found in widening Highway 367 for turn lanes.

Officials at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) have been slow to approve any traffic circles, and it is not expected that approval for Ward’s proposed traffic circle will be seen for some time, Stanley said.

However, with the funds available through Metroplan, Arkansas Highway 367 could be widened to provide lanes for up to about 20 vehicles waiting at the railroad crossing, Stanley said.

The plan would include ending Hickory Street about 100 feet from Highway 367.

All the proposed modifications would be adaptable to a traffic circle once it is approved, Stanley said.

Brooke said the LUZA funds are available for the city total about $103,000, but LUZA funds are “use it or lose it.” Though the deadline for obligating LUZA funds is several months away, it is best to submit plans now expecting delays in the approval process, he said.

LUZA funds are managed by Metroplan, Brooke said. The next Metroplan meeting will be July 31 and the recommended obligations should be ready for that meeting, he said.

The council approved a called meeting for noon, July 11, to discuss the best use of the LUZA funds. The meeting is open to the public.

Funding of additional sidewalks under the Safe Routes to School program will total about $44,000, Stanley said. This is the program used to construct the new sidewalks to Ward Central Elementary School. The grant would be about $33,000 but other available funds increase the total to about $44,000, Stanley said.

David Stanley, of Lemons Engineers at Cabot, said the amount would be able to extend the ends, although not a great distance. “But it is not locked in, we can adjust it as we see fit,” Stanley said.

Council members approved continuing the SuddenLink cable service contract.

Before the vote, SuddenLink regional manager Karen Madding told the city council members that the company wanted to continue the cable service at Ward. Currently there are 600 subscribers, and the service returns $18,000 annually to the city budget, she said.

Stanley also presented a draft copy of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) for the aldermen to review. The study of erosion controls is required by state law; the study is to be turned over to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) on Wednesday, he said.

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