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Dear Mahatma: Speaking of JFK Boulevard (Arkansas 107), we heard for a while about grandiose plans to redo the section that goes through Park Hill. Do you have any information on the status of that? -- Bumpy Driver

Dear Bumpy: North Little Rock's JFK Boulevard is generally busier than a ... fill in politically incorrect metaphor. The Park Hill area also features some funky drainage and resulting rugged terrain.

For grandiose plans, we first went to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, this being a state highway. We were referred to the City of North Little Rock and eventually connected with Robert Birch, the city's director of development.

It so happens there is some grandiosity in progress, and has been for about seven years, not only for Park Hill but also for Levy's Five Corners. The what? Explanation later.

The city, Birch said, is recipient of a couple of Metroplan grants to make these two areas more walkable and for other improvements. The Levy project is a little ahead, and in fact will feature a groundbreaking next Friday at 1 p.m. at Levy Baptist Church.

The project runs from 33rd Street to 38th Street. There will be new sidewalks, buffers to more safely separate sidewalks from roadways, and repavings. The goal is to build more walkable retail.

The triangle split on Pike will change to one-way onto Camp Robinson to reduce the number of accidents. The eight- to nine-month project will cost $2.3 million, with the city's share about $400,000 and the rest from Metroplan. Construction is on the cusp.

Birch said Park Hill's project is likely to start sometime in the first three months of next year. It will run from A Street to H Street.

The street will be milled down and rebuilt. Medians will be rebuilt with a new design. Sidewalks will be widened on both sides, and there will be increased buffer space between sidewalks and street. Now, Birch said, sidewalks are right on the road. Buffers will be landscaped, and the area made much more walkable.

All crossings will be updated with clear delineations and accessible to handicapped pedestrians, including blind people.

There will still be two traffic lanes in each direction at the same width. Curbs and gutters will improve the drainage.

Price tag? The project will cost about $2.8 million, with $600,000 as the city's share.

Timeline? Nine months.

Now, about Five Corners. It's where Pike Avenue converges with Camp Robinson and 34th Street. Think U.S. Pizza. Also think Venable Lumber, long gone but not forgotten.

A check-cashing business now occupies the triangle, but in the previous century there was a Lion station, gasoline priced at 30 cents a gallon, give or take. We kid you not.

Birch was unfamiliar with the Five Corners description. We swear that's what it's been called forever. Or at least since The Fabulous Babe took up residence with us in a garage apartment in Levy back in ... never mind.

Still fabulous, she is.


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