During a special meeting Monday, the Bryant City Council discussed the intersection of Arkansas 5 and Bryant Parkway.
City Engineer Ted Taylor led the discussion and answered questions from the council and the public.
The council was concerned about the safety of the intersection where families, faculty and staff have to turn to go to Parkway Elementary School. Council Member RJ Hawk said there have been 63 accidents at that intersection since the school first opened.
Taylor said while the city owns Bryant Parkway, the Arkansas Department of Transportation is in charge of Arkansas 5 and therefore has control of what occurs on that road. To further complicate matters, ARDOT is in the process of widening Arkansas 5. That section is part of the plans for widening in 2024, Taylor said.
If the city were to try to put in stop lights and a turning lane, Taylor said it would cost $3.2 million and would probably be ripped out again when the area is widened. He said the expense would not be the light but the other requirements the city would have to follow to meet ARDOT standards.
If the city does the work, the city would also have to pay to move any utilities in the right-of-way. If ARDOT does the work, the city would only have to pay to move their own utilities.
Taylor told the council ARDOT plans to have 60 percent of the design for the eventual widening of the area done by March. He added that it is unusual for ARDOT to do the designs without the funding in place, but Mayor Allen Scott and others have been putting pressure on the department to try to find a solution.
He said part of the problem is ARDOT doesn't know how the vote on Issue One will go in November. Issue One would extend a half cent sales tax that is already in place to ensure funding for road projects like this one. If the tax sunsets at the end of the year instead of being extended, ARDOT may not have to funds to complete its projects.
Taylor said currently ARDOT is more in favor of adding flashing lights or some other warning on the road to let drivers know it is an unsafe intersection. He said he is working with ARDOT to get something approved. The city can put lights or signs on Bryant Parkway without approval.
Hawk asked if it was possible to have the speed in that area reduced. Taylor said he can speak to ARDOT about it.
Resident Geno Hunter said in a public comment he feels that reducing the speed won't help because the problem is those traveling East and West, not North and South. He also expressed frustration that Big Red Stores was allowed to put in a location at that intersection. He thinks that has added to the problem.
His wife, Joan Hunter, asked the council to ensure trees and bushes are trimmed to help people be able to see at that intersection.
Council members told her that will depend on who owns the property at that intersection.
Council Member Brenda Miller suggested a temporary stop light, but Taylor doesn't believe ARDOT will allow that.
Resident Russ Littleton said at his job at Little Rock Christian Academy they have had the same issue and ARDOT has not done anything to fix it. One strategy they tried was hiring off duty officers to direct traffic. He said the city would be looking at $1,000 a day.
The council wasn't sure ARDOT would allow that. They discussed churches that hire officers after services.
Bryant Police Chief Carl Minden said the difference between churches and the city is its the individual churches hiring the officers. If the city does it, the pay would have to come from his overtime budget and there is not enough in that budget to cover it. He can't make it a part of regular duties because the officers have to be able to respond to calls.
Taylor told the council he will get in touch with ARDOT and try to have an update for the council at its next meeting. The council decided to add updates on the intersection to all agendas going forward.
Hawk told those in the audience they can watch the city Facebook page and sign up for the Next Door app to keep updated on the project. He added meetings are streamed to YouTube for those who can't attend.
Assistant to the Mayor Dana Poindexter said people can sign up for emails for all city meetings by going online and signing up through Notify Me.
Scott said the city is doing all it can do as fast as it can to address the situation.