Leader Blues

Monday, April 30, 2007

TOP STORY >>Williams will visit Congress for funds

Leader staff writer

At the end of his fourth month in office, Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams will travel to Washington to ask Arkansas’ congressional delegation for help with several large projects: a new post office, a north interchange and a National Guard armory or readiness center as they are now called.

Meanwhile, he is taking small steps toward easing the traffic congestion that is generally held as the city’s biggest problem.
“I wish there was one thing that would fix it all,” Williams said this week. “But there just isn’t.”

What area residents will see next week is an extra lane for right turns off South Rockwood coming out of Wal-Mart to be followed by re-striping to create a second turn lane off Hwy. 89 onto Rockwood so traffic doesn’t back up to the overpass.
Then the outside lane of Hwy. 89 that ends at Rockwood will be extended to allow traffic to flow uninterrupted to Hwy. 5.
Four lanes all the way to Hwy. 5 are likely years away from becoming a reality, but the changes in just that one intersection combined with adjustments to the timing of the traffic signals on Hwy. 89 should improve traffic considerably, Williams says.
A new traffic signal is planned for Hwy. 5 near the Heber Springs off-ramp to keep traffic from backing up on the freeway. The signal, which will be installed in conjunction with resurfacing of the highway, should be up within two weeks, the mayor said.

Williams, who was an engineer for Union Pacific when he ran for mayor, but also spent several years in management for the same company, has talked a lot since he took office, about building relationships with the people in county, state and federal offices who can help the city.

He held a traffic summit in February which included a tour of the city’s streets in which he pointed out several trouble spots that needed their attention. Since then, he has been in frequent contact with Mark Lyons, the chief signal engineer for the state, who is helping him make traffic flow smoother.

“We had a meeting this week and it’s a go and it’s only going to cost the city $10,000,” he said of the new light planned for Hwy. 5.

Since it literally takes an act of Congress to get a new post office, Williams is going to Washington Monday. He said he sees the existing post office becoming a branch to a larger post office that will be conveniently located for more residents, possibly in the Rockwood area.

“Every time I go there I have to stand in a long line,” Williams said when asked why he wants another post office. “There’s a need.”

When he says he sees the old post office as a branch, he means that almost literally. The mayor says he has been greatly influenced by a book written about 10 years ago by Steven Covey, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” From that book he says he has learned to “begin with the end in mind.”