Pedestrian bike path nears finish line

By Chloe Short/Aspiring Reporter
Delta Digital News Service

The city comes close to finished plans for the bike path project. Residents will witness construction soon, bringing bike lanes and bridges to connect all the city. The bike pedestrian trail will make one large circle around Jonesboro to allow all areas within the city to experience different ways of traveling.

Danny Kapales, director of Parks and Recreation in Jonesboro, said plans for the bike path are close to finishing. Currently, the design and property acquisition requires completion, then plans move forward to starting construction. Kapales said the project needs scouted property for purchase and further design touches.

“We’re hoping to be starting by the end of this year with the construction or at least by the following year with construction. We should be done with at least land acquisition and design by the end of this year,”  Kapales said.

Final decisions made to design arrangements will then allow progress to finding the construction company. Kapales said when the project releases, construction companies will place bids and once finalized, the project will move to construction.

Earlier in planning, the project awaited clearance for grants to work the University Heights phase, which gives access to open the east side of Jonesboro and will allow safe travel along Aggie Road. Updates revealed the plans received clearance, Kapales said.

Bill Campbell, director of communications for Jonesboro, said the bike path proposal sits at 90% completion. The parks and recreation, engineering, and grants department received the grant money of $500,000 from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Transportation Alternatives Program needed to proceed with construction and to continue the bike path phases.

The project plans continued for almost two years after being released to the public. Campbell said after speaking to city Director of Engineering Craig Light, he found money as the hold up in the schedule.

“The project was slowed originally as we looked for additional funding to complete the first phase of construction.  This was ultimately obtained through a second TAP Grant from ARDOT. We just recently received a third TAP Grant from ARDOT to build the final piece of this project which will tie the trail to the A-State campus at the Marion Berry Parkway. We have opted to combine these two project phases into one single project for construction. This decision was made based on a couple of factors, the primary one being that the right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation pieces of the project are expected to take most of the year to complete anyway,” Light said.

New construction brings uncertainty to wildlife in the area, especially if tampered with. Campbell assured that with planning, The parks and recreation, engineering, and grants department must perform environmental studies anytime working with untampered land. Kapales said the bike roads will follow along roads already made, so they do not see any wildlife being interfered with.

Charles Fox, of Gearhead Cycle House, said the community will benefit from the new bike path. Fox said cycling creates a natural high that comes from physical activity, whether the activity runs light or heavy. Active lifestyles can be more conducive to happy living and overall wellness, he said.

“I feel as if it will offer people an opportunity to get out and exercise on their bicycles in a way that they might not have current access to. For a lot of people riding on the streets with automobiles isn’t the most comfortable activity and safer bike paths should give people an entry into the world of cycling,” Fox said.