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Open house held on Hillsboro Gateway master plan

By Kaitlyn Rigdon
This article was published October 11, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

By Kaitlyn Rigdon

Staff Writer

The Hillsboro Gateway Corridor master plan public meeting and open house displayed examples of ways the city is wanting to improve and modify Hillsboro Street. A number of community members, including business and home owners, turned out for the meeting at the Municipal Auditorium on Tuesday.

The master plan is to widen Hillsboro Street from a two lane to a three lane from the Highway 82 bypass to the Highway 167 bypass, totaling around four miles.

The goal is to make Hillsboro a multimodal friendly street and make it more appealing for first-time visitors of El Dorado.

“This and the North West corridor are your two primary corridors,” said Ernie Bougham, regional office director for the Toole Group. “This is the way many, many people first see El Dorado. That’s why it is so extremely important that this be a corridor that you can be proud of.”

Plans to widen and improve Hillsboro date back to 2007 and were presented by the Arkansas Highway and Department of Transportation (ArDOT) in 2014.

The widening will be a two lane road with a median and a sidewalk for biking and walking.

Points of purpose include:

• Build partnership, ownership and support with the community.

• Craft an unified multimodal transportation, land use and urban design vision that establishes the corridor as a place of interaction, connection and pride for the residents of El Dorado.

• Identify opportunities, strategies and programs to support, retain and strengthen existing businesses and residences while attracting new investments.

• Refine planned ArDOT transportation improvements to enhance pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, comfort and safety, improve traffic safety and management and avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to the natural and built environment.

• Develop an implementation plan that will serve as a road map for project partners to facilitate the realization of master plan elements.

Near-term actions, which would take place between one to four years include:

• Stabilize neighborhoods, institutions, residential and neighborhood-servicing retail.

• Utilize Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds and low-interest loans.

• Create a Hillsboro Corridor Alliance.

• Form a foundation-led collaborative.

• Provide local incentives to support corridor improvements, businesses and residents.

• Create pathways for business owners to purchase commercial land and property.

• Increase access to capital for residential and small business.

• Leverage new market-rate and affordable residential development.

• Apply State and Federal programs.

A survey was taken on the traffic through Hillsboro Street, resulting in 14,000 cars per day. This means 7,000 cars in one direction per day, 1,400 cars during rush hour and one car every six seconds. According to a study presented at the meeting, this means that Hillsboro should be a three lane street.

An idea also presented was a roundabout placed where College Street and Hillsboro Street meet and where North West Avenue and Hillsboro Street meet. This will take away the need for stop lights at these intersections.

In September 2016, a design team, including engineers, planners and landscape architects from Crafton Tull and Associates, Inc., transportation planners and engineers from the Toole Design group and economic transportation development strategists from VantagePoint held a multi-day design workshop for the Gateway plan.

The four main concerns that were brought to attention at that meeting was pedestrian safety/accidents, traffic congestions, condition of the street and bicyclist safety/accidents.

“The highway department has done some preliminary studies, so what we’ve done is kind of accounted for that and redesigned the corridor based on what we heard from you all in the first public meeting,” said Dave Roberts, vice president of planning and business development for Crafton Tull and Associations, Inc. “What you see on the boards is a concept alignment and then once that’s been approved, then the highway department will do the final design with the engineers.”

See Thursday’s edition for part II of the Hillsboro Gateway master plan meeting.

Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or krigdon@eldoradonews.com.

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