A-State Grants Target Bike and Pedestrian Pathway

By Jessica Ladd
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO— A new bike and pedestrian pathway will be built on Arkansas State University’s campus. The pathway will improve safety and connectivity across campus.

This new pathway comes as a breath of fresh air to some university students.

A-State student Christina Huynh said, “It is a good thing since we did have that accident recently here. I think anything we do to help make things safer, will make things safer.”

She also said she won’t feel completely safe on campus until drivers start obeying the university’s traffic laws.

The latest pathway project consists of two phases. According to Bill Smith, the associate vice chancellor for marketing and communication at A-State, the university received a $450,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Transportation for the first phase. ARDOT will provide an additional $370,000, possibly $390,000, for the second phase of the project.

Bill Smith

Bill Smith, the associate vice chancellor for marketing and communication (photo by Jessica Ladd)

Phase one will create a multi-use path for pedestrians and bicycle riders along Aggie Road on the western side of campus. The path will also continue under Marion Berry Parkway along University Loop West. Construction on phase one began in February 2018 and finished in July 2018.

Phase two will extend the path from behind the library and continue east. It will then turn north to circle back to Aggie Road. Once completed, students will be able to make a loop around campus. The second phase is approaching the design and bid. The university hopes to start on phase two in the late spring and summer of this year. However, bid results and weather could cause delays.

Smith said these pathways are part of a master plan to link campus together. It will be easier for pedestrians and cyclist to get around. Eventually, the university wants to add more trails to connect the east side of campus to the farming area located on the other side of Red Wolf Boulevard. Smith said he hopes Jonesboro will connect its pedestrian pathways with A-State’s in the future. This will multiply the pathways for the city.

These grants come from the Transportation Alternatives Program. The money goes directly into the project and is used for engineering, materials and construction. These grants work as matching 80/20 grants: ARDOT will provide 80 percent of the funds and ASU will cover the other 20 percent. On the $450,000 dollar grant, ASU paid $120,000. The same arrangement will be applied to the grant for the second phase.

Aggie Road Bridge

Aggie Road Bridge — An Arkansas State University student uses the new portion of the pathway along Aggie Road. (photo by Jessica Ladd)

Aaron Vowell, a resident engineer for ARDOT, said his job is to oversee construction, bids to contractors and the building plans in Jonesboro. Every couple of weeks, he receives a payment request from the University. He then reviews it to ensure the work listed has been completed. Once he has inspected the request, he sends it on to the corporate office in Little Rock, where the grant process is handled.

Although the pathway isn’t completed, many students still enjoy it.

A-State student Latoya Taylor said, “I think it is a good project because you don’t want to be in the road so close to traffic,” she said.

The University is installing lights on the dark western side of campus along the completed portion of the path. Smith predicted the path will have more foot traffic then, especially at night. Smith said he knows what it is like to maneuver around campus without with pathway.

“I’ve lived west of campus and I ride to work almost every day,” he said. “Having that new path has allowed me to step off of the road and have fewer incidents with traffic.”

He said in the past, drivers have not been willing to give him 3 feet of the road. Smith said safety must be a top priority. Drivers must stop at crosswalks. Drivers should also pay attention to the speed limit. He urged pedestrians to make sure the driver sees them before crossing at a crosswalk; they should never assume a driver will see them and stop. Smith said the new pathway will be designed to give pedestrians the right of way with the streets it intersects.