Debate continues regarding alternate route to regional airport

By Martin Couch

It’s not a new question, but one that’s still on the minds of many Bryant citizens, and could become an issue in the future growth of the city.

Would a newly constructed roadway from Interstate 30 to the regional airport in south Bryant be beneficial to the city?

Some say in more ways than one, while others remain skeptical and call it a “road to nowhere.”[more]

From a report to the city from the Saline County Economic Development Committee nearly a year ago, site consultants said that there was a need for another route other than the current path of Highway 183.

“The point was for industrial growth on the east side of the city,” said Arkansas Sen. Shane Broadway, who is also a member of the SCEDC and a resident of Bryant. “We reported to the city, the county and the airport commission, the advice of consultants and several found that it would be beneficial if another route was constructed in the future. It would be an easier way to move industrial traffic, but it’s the city’s decision.”

The potential route would start at the Raymar Road overpass. However, since a public hearing on the matter last year, there have been some concerns from citizens made about the path.

“There is no set route it has to go,” Broadway said. “It could go farther east, but the property is still marketable. There would be less traffic through Bryant and the consideration here is that it is a lot of property that can help create jobs, more industry and lessen taxes. The downside is the money issue right now.”

And since Bryant Mayor Larry Mitchell has been in office, one of his concerns has been the possible development of over 1000 acres that is adjacent to the airport.

“One of the drawbacks is that there is no direct route from the interstate to the airport,” Mitchell said. “There is a lot of congestion down Reynolds Road in the mornings and afternoons. We’re in the process of hiring an engineering firm who would tell us what would be the best routing for cost and least environmental impact on the neighborhoods. It would bring in jobs and more housing and that means more people spending money here and kids in our schools. It’s a diamond in the rough and it’s a matter of time before it happens out there.”

The city of Bryant has contacted Jacobs Engineering firm from Little Rock about surveying the area for a potential route.

“We really are committed to road development, specifically for the city needs at Raymar Road in both directions, because it will open ways for economic development there,” Bryant Chamber of Commerce executive director Rae Ann Fields said. “People have been looking on both sides of that for a road and we have lost prospects, because we’ve had only the Reynolds Road route to the airport and they’d have to deal with the traffic lights. We are very much ready for the city to move on that.”

On the other side,  Alderman Adrian Henley of Ward 3 (the area of the city that will be impacted) brought up points that he feels should also be considered before the road project is launched.

“For one, there will not be a road unless they (the city) comes up with another way to finance it,” Henley said. “I have checked into this and a road costs about $1 million a mile to construct. This is with the right-of-ways that have to be bought and all of the construction costs. The total bond the city took out for streets was only $4.2 million and has earned about $1 million in interest while it’s been in the bank. The one road they are talking about building is nearly seven miles, I hear, that would amount to $7 million, and that’s without a bridge that would have to be built over the railroad tracks.

“The city has already spent over half of the bond money on other street projects and with the current amount left from the bond money, and the amount of work to be done in order to make a road to the airport, I would not support any of this money to be thrown away like that.”

Henley does have a suggestion that is relevant to the issue at hand.

“The only thing we could do with this amount of money is secure some of the right-of-way land to get there and nothing would actually be constructed,” he said. “I do not think this would be a proper way to spend the taxpayers’ street improvement money that we will be making payments on for the next 20 years. I would like to see the rest of those funds spent on some roads like Boone, where we have built a $21 million park and the road is not up to the heavy traffic I believe they will receive from this new attraction.

“We have to remember this bond is for 20 years and we need to be looking down the road on how we can spend it wisely to last,” Henley added.

Henley also pointed out other miscellaneous projects for roads that he believes would take precedence over constructing a road to the airport.

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