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By Ron Wood

NWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

FAYETTEVILLE -- State highway officials recently unveiled conceptional plans they hope will improve traffic flow at Interstate 49 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Plans call for a "single point urban interchange" designed to move large volumes of traffic through limited amounts of space. It's expected to feature a traffic signal at the center of the interchange that controls left turns from all directions. The approaches will also be massaged and there should be three lanes for traffic trying to turn north on I-49 for increased volume.

South of the interchange, the access roads will be lengthened and two roundabouts added to keep traffic moving.

"Our engineers see considerable value in the single point urban interchange," said Danny Straessle, public information officer, during a public meeting on the plan. "Some people may look at it and say it looks really complicated, but it will be much easier to drive than it looks."

I-49 will continue to go over MLK as it currently does, officials said. The project is tentatively expected to go out for bids sometime after 2020 and cost $20 to $30 million. A construction timeline hasn't yet been determined.

The left, northbound turn is currently a choke point during the morning rush hour because of continued development in west Fayetteville, Farmington, Prairie Grove and Lincoln and the resulting traffic.

Michael Lorenz, of Prairie Grove said he leaves later in the mornings to avoid having to sit in traffic waiting.

"The intersection does need to be repaired, it's been a problem for a long time," Lorenz said. "They made improvements a couple of years back and got it to flow through quite a bit but it still backs up, especially into Farmington in the morning. Evening traffic, Farmington is the clog. This looks like it will be a good alternative, I think will work good."

Nan Lawler and Richard Covey said they travel through the interchange regularly.

"That really looks cleaned up," Lawler said, comparing the new proposal with two options proposed in September.

Space and cost were issues with those options.

One version featured a bridge on-ramp to northbound I-49 from the inside eastbound lanes of MLK. The other option showed a loop on-ramp from the outside eastbound lanes onto the interstate.

The bridge could have been built within the existing right of way but the long ramp leading to it would have had very large walls that would cut off a driver's visibility.

The loop would have required a new on-ramp be built outside existing right of way. A gas station and a motel on the southeast corner of the interchange and the Bank of America building, a body shop and the Walmart optical building on the northeast corner would have had to be purchased.

Traffic studies done in 2012 found I-49 at the interchange carried 54,700 cars a day and MLK carried 38,000. By 2040, I-49 is projected to have some 84,000 cars a day and MLK 62,000.

General News on 05/16/2018

Print Headline: Proposed I-49/MLK Changes Unveiled

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