Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

TOP STORY >> GOP candidates square off

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Cabot has five candidates for mayor to replace Stubby Stumbaugh, who is running for Congress, but only two are running in the May 23 primary.

They are Republicans Eddie Joe Williams, a former Cabot alderman, and Bill “Pete” Pedersen, a former justice of the peace, who represented Cabot on the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

The two Republicans have opposing views on alleviating the city’s traffic problems, which they discuss fully on their websites, www.pedersenforcabot.com. and www.goeddiejoe.com.

Williams supports building the north interchange, a plan that was developed in conjunction with the state Highway Depart-ment about six years ago. Pedersen supports the plan released earlier this year by a committee made up of county and city leaders.

Both plans call for a railroad overpass and a third interchange. Both call for new roads. But as currently drawn, the north interchange would be built through a sparsely populated area. The new plan calls for road construction in areas that are already populated.

Pedersen was not on the committee that developed the latest plan, but his website details the various components of the plan that he says will do the most to help existing problems.

Acquiring federal funding for highway projects takes about 10 years, so neither plan would be implemented quickly.
Williams says he supports the north interchange because it was planned in conjunction with a railroad overpass in the vicinity of Polk Street near Austin and because the traffic and environmental studies have been completed. Williams was on the city council when the overpass was designed and scheduled for construction.

The railroad overpass, which has been approved for about $5 million in federal funding, would be the first phase of the three-phase of the plan Williams supports. Construction of an interchange near the northern city limits of Cabot off Hwy. 67/167 North would be the second phase, and the third phase would be connecting Hwy. 5 with Hwy. 67/167 North to completely loop the city.

“I’m the guy who worked tirelessly to get that $5 million for the overpass and I’m the guy who’s going to solve the traffic problems,” Williams said.

Pedersen said he is opposed to the north interchange plan because it would do little to help existing traffic problems. The plan proposed by the county committee that he supports would place a railroad overpass at Richie Road and a cloverleaf interchange between the two existing interchanges that would be accessed from a new road off Highway 89.

The plan also calls for a new road running north and south on the left of the freeway to connect the new interchange with Hwy. 319 and a second road running north and south on the right of the freeway that would connect Hwy. 89 to Hwy. 38.
The plan put together by the county committee also includes new entrance ramps.

Williams says a north interchange will allow the city to grow in that direction and help alleviate some traffic congestion now. But he says he has other ideas for solving the immediate traffic problems in the city, such as quarter-cloverleaf entrance ramps onto the freeway that would ease the flow of traffic heading south toward Little Rock by allowing motorists to enter the ramps from the right instead of the left.

Pedersen says voters need to decide which plan they prefer and vote for the candidate who supports the one they like.
“The feds are not going to fund both our plans,” he said. “We’ve got to elect the man who will push the plan that will serve the most people.”

In the race as independents are former Justice of the Peace Kenny Ridgeway, Cabot Alderman James Glenn and Cabot Alderman David Polantz. Independents can’t file for office until July 20.

Stumbaugh, a Republican, is running against Congressman Marion Berry, the Democratic incumbent in the First District.
All five candidates say traffic is the major issue in the election. Alderman Polantz sponsored a council resolution calling for impact fees to be collected on new construction. An impact fee study completed in March has not been adopted by the council. It includes money for widening Highway 89 from Fifth Street to U.S. 67-167.

Alderman Glenn says getting Highway 89 widened is essential, but if elected, he also would try to build more parks.
Ridgeway says he has looked at both traffic plans that are being promoted now and he prefers the one that came out of the county committee, because it would address Cabot’s immediate problems.

Among the independents, Polantz says is campaigning a little now, but Glenn and Ridgeway say they will start their campaigns after the primary.