When Bryant residents completed surveys using their phones at a recent town hall meeting, one question they were asked was how public works funds should best be invested in the city. Of those who answered, 54 percent said streets, 23 percent opted for sidewalks, 15 percent picked storm drainage, and 8 percent said public buildings.
When asked to cite the biggest public works issues, 35 percent said storm drainage, 24 percent said traffic congestion, 24 percent said road quality, 6 percent said trash service, and 11 percent of the answers were not readable by aText, the software used by Sylvester Smith of Legacy Consulting to administer the poll.
Monty Ledbetter, director of public works, said the city of Bryant is ready to take a serious look at revamping the street system.
Since 2008, the public works department has spent a large portion of time on flooding issues, but with those projects wrapping up, the department will be free to address the road situation.
Thanks to a half-cent sales tax increase approved by Arkansas voters in the 2012 election, the city of Bryant will have $300,000 a year to spend on streets.
“There will be new opportunities to make big improvements,” Ledbetter said. From this point forward, the city will build “complete streets,” meaning roads with walkways for pedestrians and bicycle lanes, in addition to accommodating vehicles.
A lot of thought into what the future will hold needs to go into road design, said Richard MaGee, deputy director and director of planning for Metroplan, a council of Central Arkansas governments that provides long-range transportation planning and technical assistance.
“Once someone builds a road, it is there, maintained at some level for many years," he said. "How they are built and maintained is very critical, and connectivity is the most important thing.”
It’s important to have foresight, he said. Twenty years ago, MaGee was instrumental in recommending the Springhill and Raymar overpasses.
“A lot of people asked why,” he said.
The reason was to make the road more closely resemble a grid pattern, which is the most efficient road design style. MaGee said he knew this would be important with the traffic congestion that goes along with population growth.
Betty Jo Twiggs, 80, expressed the need for transit options. “I go to the senior center, and although I drive myself, there are a lot of people who have a very hard time finding a way to get there.”
This problem is expected to increase, as one out of five Bryant residents will be above the age of 65 in 2030. “This is the sort of thing it’s important to plan for,” MaGee said.
The city has considered putting in a light rail, but a certain population density is needed to justify this. The city might instead consider looking at buses that have a dedicated lane on Interstate 30, Ledbetter said.
The third town hall meeting, which will address “community image,” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at First Southern Baptist Church, 401 N. Reynolds Road.
The final town hall meeting will focus on quality of life and is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at The Center at Bishop Park, located at 6401 Boone Road.
Comments made by Bryant residents during each town hall meeting will be compiled in a report that will be presented to the Bryant City Council and used during the drafting of the city’s Action Plan 2030.
Those who did not attend the meeting may still have input by filling out the community assessment on the city of Bryant website: www.cityofbryant.com .
“Getting input from the people helps us find where we want to focus,” said Mayor Jill Dabbs.
**PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 23 IN THE SALINE COURIER.