Leader Blues

Monday, October 06, 2008

TOP STORY >>Agency supports North Belt Loop route

Leader senior staff writer

The Federal Highway Administra-tion has issued a record of decision setting the path that the North Belt Freeway will eventually take between the bean field at Hwy. 67/167 on the east and I-430 and I-40 at Crystal Hill on the west, according to Randy Ort, spokesman for the state Highway Department.
After years of study, public hearings and environmental-impact statements, then years more of the same, the city of Sherwood, Metroplan, the state Highway and Transportation Department and the federal high-way department all agree on the route in general. But the agreed-upon route is still 200-feet wide, and Highway Department engineers can move within that corridor to minimize the impact upon homeowners, the environment, costs or other considerations, Ort said.
The actual record of decision was issued Sept. 23, but only reached the Highway Department on Friday, he said.
“This will allow us to start sending survey crews out . . . to design a roadway,” Ort said.
“There is no money for construction, but we can continue to work on this project,” he said. “I don’t know when they will start.”
The 12.7-mile project will cost an estimated $347 million.
Of that, $320 million would be for construction, $14.8 million for right of way, $10.9 million for utilities and $1 million for relocation costs.
While no money has been identified to build the project, there is $4 million available to begin purchasing right of way, according to Jim McKenzie, director of Metroplan.
It would require conversion of 707 acres of right of way, according to the environmental impact statement.
The route east from I-40 at Crystal Hill was described like this:
From the western end of the proposed project at Interstate 40, the Preferred Alternative goes to the northeast through the Crystal Hill community to an interchange at Highway 365.
From there, it continues to the northeast into Camp Robinson, passing to the southeast of the Camp Robinson Army Airfield. Briefly turning to the southeast then east, the route passes to the north of Engineers Lake before turning to the northeast again to cross Batesville Pike just to the north of Maryland Avenue and the North Little Rock Municipal Airport.
Part of the route includes relocating a portion of Batesville Pike outside Camp
From the Batesville Pike Interchange the route continues northeast, to the west of Wayside Drive, and
Crosses Kellogg Acres Road just to the north of the intersection with Oakdale Road. It
Continues east just north of Oakdale Road and then southeast with an interchange proposed at
Highway 107. The Preferred Alternative turns to the northeast when crossing Fears Lake and
Back to the southeast, crossing Oneida Street before connecting with the Highway 67