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Moore on Maumelle | Watson responds to Lewis’ consideration and criticism

Last week, I allowed Alderman Preston Lewis to state in this space his reasons for considering a run for mayor of Maumelle. I asked Mayor Mike Watson to respond. Here are his remarks:

“As Alderman Lewis pointed out in his response to your question in last week’s editorial, traffic is an issue for Maumelle but the Counts Massie Extension is not the end-all, be-all for the traffic situation for Maumelle Boulevard.

“The new roadway is being designed from the end of its current location to the proposed location of an interchange on Interstate 40 at the closed rest area. (The Interchange is still in a preliminary design phase and our consultant is developing final environmental documents to submit for approval to allow final design to begin.) The construction of the interchange will be required for Counts Massie to alleviate any traffic from Maumelle Boulevard. Yes, the extension of Counts Massie is a requirement for the interchange to be of any use for Maumelle Boulevard traffic, so they are intrinsically tied together, but the actual construction of one is not currently holding up any progress of the other.

“There are also portions of the existing Counts Massie roadway which will need to be improved to have a completed roadway, a quarter-mile section of the roadway is fully within the city limits of North Little Rock. In discussions with Mayor Joe Smith last year, North Little Rock did not have adequate funds to construct or pay for their portion of the roadway in the 2014 budget year. The lack of funding presents a challenge that if the Maumelle portion is completed and the North Little Rock section is not, a thirty-two feet improved roadway will connect to a quarter mile section of roadway that is very narrow (sixteen feet in sections) and unimproved. I am basically trying to make sure that when the roadway is let to bid, adequate funds are available to construct the entire roadway not just the Maumelle portion.

“We have been in discussions recently with a representative of the majority landowner in the North Little Rock portion on the actual location of the new alignment, all of these discussions take time and sometimes slow the progress on Maumelle’s portion.

“The roadway plans and bridge plans are currently being designed with completed plans expected by this fall. Has the project moved as fast as I would have liked? No. But part of the process of any project is consultant selection, fee negotiations with the selected consultant, and then the actual design with review processes at specific intervals. This all takes time. This is not done to purposely slow the project but to make sure that the taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and that all the design standards are met during the design process. The final goal is to have a roadway project that serves the needs of the citizens, and sometimes that takes a methodical and deliberate process that may be perceived as slow by some when they are not directly involved in the many decisions on a daily basis.

“The Crystal Hill Road project is progressing with the plans in the final stages of design. The plans were recently reviewed by the City Engineer at the 60 percent stage and they have been returned to the consultant to finalize those documents. Another review will be done at that point and after some minor revisions, I am sure the project will be ready to bid.

“Regarding the traffic situation on Maumelle Boulevard, a plan is being developed by a consultant to Metroplan to develop an Adaptive Traffic Signal System for all 13 traffic signals on the Boulevard from Interstate 40 to Interstate 430. It is a joint project with Maumelle, North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and Metroplan. The adaptive signals will communicate with one another and allow individual traffic signals to adjust to traffic situations and not rely on a timing plan that has been programmed in for certain periods of the day. It will be much like an actual traffic engineer is controlling each signal in real-time. Similar adaptive systems have been deployed on busy corridors in two cities in Northwest Arkansas with reduction in travel times and reduced congestions during peak traffic periods.

“I understand that there is a traffic problem on the Boulevard but it is going to take more than one roadway project to solve the problem, which is why we are also working hard on this project to improve the Boulevard signals to help with the traffic situation during peak periods.”

I appreciate the mayor’s candor and quick response. I know we are all hoping for an eventual solution to the traffic tangles and the continued progress of other projects in Maumelle.

Maumelle Friends of the Animals need your support

The volunteers at the Maumelle Friends of the Animal shelter tell us the shelter is at 100 percent capacity and they desperately need adoptions and foster care. According to a volunteer, the shelter has only 18 dog cages and 18 cat cages for a city with a population of 18,000. The staff is scrambling to take care of the animals, but they need help. If you can adopt or provide foster care, please call the shelter at 851-6219. More information is available at maumellefoa.org and photos of some of ther animals are on Page 6B.

Neal Moore is COE (Chief of Everything) at Neal Moore Creative, a PR, advertising and marketing consultancy. If you have a community concern or if you’re just irritated about something contact him at neal.moore@sbcglobal.net. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.

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