Regional planners, meeting as the Northwest Arkansas Regional Mobility Authority, on Wednesday approved a resolution seeking a federal grant to help pay for a 12-foot bicycle and pedestrian path along Arkansas 112, so that it will be included as part of the proposed widening and other planned improvements to the corridor.
The path, separated from the roadway, would travel approximately 16.7 miles of Arkansas 112 between Fayetteville and Bentonville.
The Regional Mobility Authority is requesting three grants of approximately $1.5 million to help pay for sections of the side road.
The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission was unable to apply for the grant money, and the Highway Department was unable to accept the money, but the Regional Mobility Authority can apply .
Grants would be awarded through the federal Transportation Alternatives program at 80% federal equity and 20% local or state matching. The resolution asks the Department of Highways to make the required 20% non-federal match with state funds.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation, which will do the work on the project, does not pay for secondary roads in their projects, but regional planners wanted them included.
“The key is that the grant will go to the project, ARDOT will match the required funds with state funds, and they will do the project,” said Tim Conklin, deputy director of regional planning. “The Regional Mobility Authority isn’t actually building this project on Arkansas 112. They’re just looking for funds to give to ARDOT because ARDOT is currently saying, based on their 2005 policy, that’s what that we have to pay.”
Department of Transportation policy is not to pay for shared-use off-street trails along but separate from highways. The department considers side roads to be more recreational in nature than part of the state’s transportation system. It will pay for bike lanes on the street.
In January 2019, regional planners agreed to move forward with a vision for Arkansas 112 as a four-lane north-south corridor with managed access. The transportation department is ultimately responsible for the design and the works.
A 2015 Arkansas 112 study tentatively recommended four lanes from Fayetteville to Bentonville, widening and straightening several curves and bypassing at least one town, Cave Springs.
Bentonville and Fayetteville have already implemented raised medians, turning lanes, limited curbs, signal spacing and other access management strategies on parts of the road.
The Regional Mobility Authority last met in May 2021.