Leader Blues

Monday, December 03, 2007

TOP STORY >>Glover: Getting department’s attention

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

State Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, was instrumental in getting state money to buy the land on Hwy. 367 in Cabot where an $8 million federally funded armory is supposed to be built within the next few years. And that, according to the mayor, is one of the reasons he is considered a good friend to Cabot.

But the Cabot residents who fight traffic at least twice a day, five days a week as they make their way from home to work and back, should also know that the senator is trying to make their daily trips less exasperating and a little safer.

Although it would be misleading to imply that his most recent efforts have been fruitful, letters from the Arkansas Highway Department show that he has at least gotten their attention.

The Highway Department has widened Hwy. 5 to four lanes from U.S. Hwy. 67-167 to Hwy. 89. Glover has asked for the widening to be continued from Hwy. 89 all the way to Hwy. 319, a distance of about five and a half miles at a cost of roughly $5.5 million.

The letter he received in June in response to his request said essentially that the idea is a good one that is already on the Highway Department’s radar.

But Glen Bolick, a spokesman for the Highway Department, said that like many good proposals across the state, there isn’t money at this time to fund it.

That project is further along than a lot of others that could also be considered worthy of he state and federal money needed for construction, Bolick said.

It has been included in the draft 2006 Arkansas State Highway Needs Study and Highway Improvement Plan and has been assigned a job number.

But it hasn’t been approved for funding and isn’t ready for construction.

“This particular job still has environmental work to be done. It still has design work to be done,” he said.

The senator also asked the Highway Department about the possibility of installing a cable to separate the northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. Hwy. 67-167 between Cabot and Jacksonville to stop crashes that occur when cars cross the median.

The response he received earlier this month indicated that Highway Department officials researched the crashes in that five-mile area of the freeway and concluded that his proposal has merit.

“From the results of our analysis, it appears that the installation of a median cable barrier in this section of Hwy. 67 would be beneficial and would qualify for federal-aid safety funds,” Dan Flowers, Highway Department director, said in a letter to Glover.

“The department will consider this project as we develop our next Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which will cover federal fiscal years 2010 through 2013.”

Asked to break down that seemingly hopeful proclamation into words that are comprehensible to the average person, Bolick said that the cable Glover wants will likely be in the planning stages beginning in 2010 and might be funded by 2013 or a little later.

But if the number of head-on crashes from vehicles crossing the median increased tremendously, that nebulous schedule could change and the cable could become a priority, Bolick said.

In the Highway Department, circumstances can change schedules, he said.

Bolick said elected officials writing letters about the projects they want done for their constituents is routine.

“Sen. Glover has always been a friend of the Highway Department and he’s never been afraid to ask for what he wants,” he said.

But does it do any good?

“It’s never going to hurt for a local elected official to continue to inquire about projects,” Bolick said.