Work is underway to realize a plan to allow Van Buren residents more ways to get around in their city.
Cody Schindler, transportation planner/bike and pedestrian coordinator for the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization in Fort Smith, said via email Wednesday that Van Buren has started building sidewalks along Pointer Trail. The construction is outlined in the Van Buren Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which is a collaboration between the city and Frontier MPO. Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The bicycle and pedestrian plan proposes that Van Buren develop 32.5 miles of sidewalks, 7.6 miles of shared-use facilities, and 41.8 miles of bikeways. It also provides cost estimates for each of these additional features. The proposed sidewalks are estimated to cost $25,804,073.04, the proposed bike lanes $20,022,667.03 and the proposed multi-use trails $3,665,810.47.
A list of potential funding sources, including federal, state, private and nonprofit options, is also included in the plan. Future prioritization of projects will depend on the methodology the city determines best fits the community’s needs.
Schindler said the Van Buren City Council passed a resolution adopting the bicycle and pedestrian plan during its meeting May 20. Prior to this, Frontier MPO and the city held a public input meeting April 1, during which residents could voice their opinions about the plan. About 20 people attended the meeting and 259 people provided their feedback through an online survey.
“Some of the things residents wanted to see were connectivity to Fort Smith, Alma and NWA via bike and pedestrian ways,” Schindler said. “Talking to some of the residents, they wanted to feel safe walking or biking to places from their homes.”
Schindler said the public input was incorporated into the plan.
“A couple of modifications were made to include a proposed trail that would connect Rena Road to Lee Creek Park,” Schindler said. “Residents expressed a need to connect the neighborhoods west of Highway 59 and south of I-40 to the Field of Dreams and the new Colley Park being built off of the Lee Creek exit off of I-40. The geography of Van Buren and interstates present barriers and challenges to the plan.”
Frontier MPO, Schindler said, will adopt the plan at its next meeting Oct. 2.
The plan includes three goals and outlines objectives to help achieve them, as well as policies to serve as guides to city and community members on how to accomplish each objective. These goals include connecting points of interest, connecting to the natural environment and supporting the local economy. This all makes the plan similar to the Alma Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan that was approved by the Alma City Council July 18.