The latest design for a $3.5 million project to widen Kanis Road west from South Shackleford Road in west Little Rock now includes a traffic circle at Kanis' intersection with Embassy Suites and Centerview drives.
More than 50 property owners and commuters appeared at a public meeting Monday evening at Second Baptist Church at 1709 John Barrow Road to view the latest plans for the busy section of Kanis between Shackleford and Gamble Road, which city engineers say will be the most expensive road project in the city's latest three-year cycle of capital improvement projects.
The project is actually two projects divided between Ward 6, represented by Doris Wright, and Ward 5, represented by Lance Hines.
The Ward 6 section is between Shackleford and South Bowman Road, a section that is a little less than a mile long. The two-lane Kanis roadway would be widened to five lanes.
Kanis west from Bowman to Gamble is in Ward 5. That section, which is slightly less than a half-mile long, would be widened to three lanes.
The city Board of Directors allocated $3.5 million for the Ward 6 project and $1.8 million for the Ward 5 portion.
The money is coming from proceeds from a city bond issue and from the city's share of the temporary statewide o.5 percent sales tax Arkansas voters approved in 2012.
Most of the money raised from the tax, which will be in place for 10 years, is helping finance $1.8 billion of road construction, which has been dubbed the Connecting Arkansas Program. But a significant share of the tax is going to the state's cities and counties.
Mike Hood, the civil engineering manager for the city Public Works Department, said the $3.5 million allocated for the Shackleford-Bowman section of Kanis won't be enough to complete the project and likely will only cover the cost of widening Kanis from Shackleford to the proposed traffic circle.
The rest of the section will be completed in a future round of funding, he said.
Commuters say the work is long overdue.
"All my daily commute issues are resolved with this project," Cathi Watkins, a daily commuter who lives in a neighborhood west of Gamble, said after reviewing the plans.
Near Shackleford, Kanis carries about 21,000 vehicles per day, according to city figures. Traffic estimates say that figure will grow to 31,000 by 2034.
Farther west, the count is smaller -- 12,000 daily on Kanis at Kirby Road. But the intersection is the site of a planned apartment development, and its traffic count is expected to be close to what the easternmost section of the project is now -- 18,000 by 2034.
Some property owners appear less thrilled about the proposal.
William Turpin lived in a property on Kanis for 40 years but now rents it out. A chunk of the front yard is expected to be needed for a 12-foot retaining wall that is part of the project.
"It's going to put the wall right at the edge of my porch," he said.
The traffic circle wasn't in the initial plans the city unveiled in June 2014, but Hood and other engineers involved in the project said it had been discussed.
The intersection didn't warrant a traffic signal, so the engineers turned to the traffic circle, which will make it easier for traffic on the two minor roads at the intersection to turn left onto Kanis.
It is difficult for such traffic to turn left there now; widening Kanis would've made it almost impossible, they said.
But the traffic circle takes away potential development opportunities available at a traditional intersection, said Jeff Hathaway, chairman-elect of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and president of the Coldwell Banker Commercial Hathaway Group.
Hathaway attended the meeting to review the project's potential impact on property in his firm's portfolio.
On the other hand, street improvements beyond simple repavement projects have largely fallen on the developers in the city in recent years, he said.
"Any kind of street widening has been paid for by the developers," Hathaway said. "It makes it that much harder to develop property."
It also leaves roadways with a "disjointed" appearance since some property has been developed with the accompanying street improvements and others have not, Hathaway said.
The Kanis project "should help fix that," he said.
Hood said the city will soon begin negotiating with property owners to purchase their property and rights of way needed for the project. That will last until next May, he said.
Once rights of way and property are acquired, utilities will be allowed about six months to relocate any lines they might have in the way of the project. Construction is scheduled to begin next November and take about a year, Hood said.
Metro on 10/27/2015
Print Headline: Engineers adjust Kanis Road plans