Highest traffic counts in county found in Berryville, planners told

Friday, December 15, 2006

BERRYVILLE -- Traffic flow and possible street improvements was the main topic of discussion at the Berryville Planning and Zoning meeting Tuesday night.

City Administrative Assistant Jay Lee tossed the topic on the table for discussion after Commissioner Jason Williams provided state highway department traffic counts for the town's main thoroughfares.

Those figures showed the highest traffic counts in the county were in Berryville:

* 13,300 average daily vehicles where U.S. Hwy. 62 and Ark. Hwy. 21 track together by the chamber office; and,

* 12,200 average daily vehicles on Hwy. 62 near the south side of square.

The third highest count was on the eastern edge of Eureka Springs where an average of 8,800 vehicles traveled along Hwy. 62.

"Does it surprise anyone that traffic on 412 is lighter than 62," asked Commissioner Richard Kimberlin when looking at the counts.

"This gives us an idea of traffic we're dealing with and where street improvements need to go," Lee said. "I'd like you to take notice of streets that need improving, the most pressing, and make a list."

Lee noted that there was some money in the proposed 2007 city budget for street improvement, but nothing close to what was needed to address growing traffic flow.

Kimberlin said other towns, such as Springdale and Rogers, float bond issues to pay for street improvements and those are readily renewed by voters.

Some of the streets Lee had listed for improvement included: the bottleneck at the intersection of Freeman Street and U.S. Hwy. 62; narrow Trinnen Lane by the ballfields; heavily traveled College Avenue; Hailey Road with its steep incline; roads around the hospital; North Avenue where it intersects with Springfield Street; and, County Roads 426 and 404 in the Birch Tree Acres subdivision area.

Kimberlin said they needed cooperation with the county on the county road project, and said people would be amazed at the amount of traffic on those roads.

Four days after sleet and snow fell, he said a section of one of those county roads, where the sun never shines, was impassable because of all the abandoned vehicles "in every configuration" blocking the way.

The group discussed traffic in and around current school campuses and how to address traffic flow into new facilities that are planned.

One of those, a multipurpose building with an 1,800 seat gymnasium, will be located behind the lower elementary school, on the same campus where a new intermediate school building will be situated.

Several commissioners noted that a new approach might be in order -- maybe from a location near Economy Drug.

Lee said that would be costly, but could spur commercial growth.

Besides submitting lists of streets that need improvement, Lee asked the commissioners to also consider which streets should be designated as "limited access roadways," meaning new driveways or approaches would be restricted because of traffic flow.

In other business, Kimberlin inquired into the number of new housing permits issued for the year and their dollar value, and said he would like those figures monthly from the building inspector.

Lee announced that a developer was interested in building apartments along Hwy. 62 Spur and might need a portion of the property re-zoned. "We have a lot of apartments in that part of town. I should know by Friday if we need to schedule a public hearing."

The commission is scheduled to meet again at 6:15 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 9, at city hall.

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