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About 20 people participated in an online public hearing Monday to discuss a $4 million project to widen a small section of Bowman Road in Little Rock.

The hour-long presentation was held online in keeping with social distance protocols in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

"Nothing quite beats face-to face," said David Hopkins, a civil engineer in the Little Rock Public Works Department who is overseeing the project design. "But we're doing the best we can do under the circumstances."

Some of the participants included members of the Arkansas Department of Transportation who are preparing for the possibility of holding their public hearings remotely.

A project to widen a small section of Bowman Road in west Little Rock that looms large in costs is scheduled to begin before the end of the year.

The project to widen Bowman south from Kanis Road to Cherry Laurel Drive to five lanes is about one-third of a mile long. About $2 million from a federal grant is available for construction and another $2 million is set aside for design and acquiring right of way.

The project is the fourth project the city has planned for the intersection at Bowman and Kanis roads. Two already are under way and a third is about to begin.

Burkhalter Technologies Inc. of North Little Rock is doing the work on a $4.2 million project to widen Kanis from South Shackleford Road to just west of Embassy Suites Drive.

Boyles Construction Inc. of Paron is working on the section of Kanis from just east of Autumn Road to Bowman Road under a $1.25 million contract.

The third project -- a $2.95 million contract also awarded to Burkhalter -- will widen Kanis west from near Bowman Road to Gamble Road. The project is still in its early stages, Hood said.

About 13,000 vehicles a day travel on Bowman south of Kanis. The traffic is expected to increase to more than 16,000 vehicles daily, according to city officials.

The project will widen the section of Bowman to five 11-foot lanes. It will include curb and gutters and sidewalks on either side. It also will feature a retaining wall three to four feet high in places along the project's east side, Hopkins said.

No one spoke against the project. One participant expressed support for the project.

"Thank you for your time and effort on the project," the participant wrote. "This intersection has been in dire need of the improvements."

Gina Pharis, who is a resident in a nearby neighborhood, offered several questions and comments, including wondering when the project would begin and how long it would take.

Hopkins responded that bids likely would be taken in September, a contract awarded in October and construction would begin at the first of 2021 and take about nine months.

Central Arkansas Water likely will begin work to move 400 feet of its pipe in early fall, according to an official with the utility that participated in the meeting.

She also asked about traffic management, expressing concern that many drivers traveling north on Bowman toward Kanis will use Executive Center Drive to avoid the intersection.

"How do you expect to manage that chaos," she wrote.

A traffic management plan will be included as part of the project, Hopkins responded.

While he said "Bowman Road will be open to traffic" throughout the project, there will be some disruptions and possible detour routes as a result.

"We acknowledge there will be challenges," he said.

Pharis also wanted to know the fate of a large oak tree near the Bowman and Kanis intersection that is included on the property of the Bowman Road Beverage liquor store.

"Unfortunately, it will be taken out" to accommodate the new curb and sidewalk as well as drainage improvements, Hopkins said.

He also acknowledged that the project likely will result in the displacement of the liquor store, the only business in the corridor so impacted.

The east side of Bowman also includes Arkansas Central Mortuary Services; Arkansas Skatium, which has both roller and ice skating rinks; and Bowman Business Park, which is home to several businesses.

The west side includes a Goodwill donation center; Kris & Sam's, a store that sells box lunches and cookies; Affordable Granite & More; and a small strip shopping center called Bowman Place that is home to Bowman Road Animal Clinic and Hounds Lounge Pet Resort & Spa.

"The effect is most severe on Bowman Road Beverage," Hopkins said. "We are in negotiations about possible displacement.

The city will take written comments through June 15. People may fill out an online comment form for the project at https://bit.ly/2XqtWKO. The project plans can be downloaded at https://bit.ly/2yUCqAn.

Metro on 06/02/2020

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