Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

TOP STORY >>Little opposition to North Belt

Leader staff writer

John Dreher and his wife built a large home in a small gated community near Kellogg Acres Road, nestled in a little valley with a wetlands out beyond their backyard. Now they and their neighbors wonder just how disruptive the state Highway and Transportation Department’s proposed route for the completion of the North Belt Loop will be of their tranquility. The Drehers and about 200 other people turned out Tuesday evening at the Church of the Nazarene on Brockington Road for the first of two public hearings on the proposed route.

The other meeting is tonight from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Cato Elementary School. Sherwood Mayor Dan Stedman said Tuesday that town officials believe the route, which runs east and west from Hwy. 67-167 through Camp Robinson and joins I-40 and I-430 near the Crystal Hill Exit, is the best available option. Stedman says the new route is within the larger area previ iously designated as acceptable by the city council and that it does not conflict with the city’s master street plan.

Sherwood Alderman Becky Vasser said she would introduce a resolution in support of the proposed route when the city council meets Monday.

In 2003, neighborhood activists in the Hidden Creek, Amber Oaks and Winridge subdivisions turned back a proposed route that threatened not only their neighborhoods, but the developing Miller Creek subdivision as well.

The current proposal would displace only 14 people, probably not enough to mount the same kind of grassroots campaign that stopped the first proposal in 2003. Highway Department spokesman Glenn Bolick said the proposed route is “bumped out” in two places to accommodate property owners, bumps that cut the number of relocated owners and tenants from 37 to 14. Bolick said that the U.S. Highway Department could make a decision on the route by the end of the year and if the money is available, the design and purchase of right-of-way could be underway in a year.

There is neither money to design nor to complete the North Belt Loop, but Highway commissioner Carl Rosenbaum says the final 12.7-mile, $276 million section could pay for itself with toll booths where it intersects Hwy. 67/167 and also Hwy. 107.

The Highway Department forecasts daily traffic on that section of the loop in excess of 30,000 vehicles a day.