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December 11, 2017
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Resolution passed for highway ownership

By Tia Lyons
This article was published October 20, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

The El Dorado City Council passed a resolution Thursday for the city to assume ownership of U.S. 82-B/Hillsboro, with the understanding that the city will also adopt U.S. 167-B/West Avenue at some point.

Alderman unanimously approved an agreement of understanding with the newly renamed Arkansas Department of Transportation, formerly the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Now known as ARDoT, the state department is working on an improvement plan for U.S. 82 through El Dorado city limits.

Upon completion of the project, the city will adopt and maintain what will then be a city street.

Mayor Frank Hash said the city’s portion of the agreement will come to $3 million.

Hash provided some background information for the proposed work, saying that it began when Madison Murphy reconstituted a group to focus on highway and transportation needs for South Arkansas.

Hash said the effort was lunched during his first term as mayor — he is now in the third year of his second, four-year term — and as Murphy’s term was winding down as a member of the Arkansas Highway Commission.

Murphy served on the commission from 2003 until 2013.

One of Murphy’s goals, Hash said, was to revitalize Hillsboro, the city’s east-west gateway.

Initial discussions were to four-lane the highway through town, but Hash said the task proved to be monumental and would have uprooted 150 businesses.

Hash and Alderman Billy Blann referred to a public hearing that was held last week in the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium for citizens to review conceptual designs and offer input.

“That was to see what their thoughts are and how they could be blended into the master plan,” Hash said.

The design phase will begin next, and the city has requested alternative components that would be allowed if the road belonged to the city.

The latest design concepts include a 10-foot, multi-use trail on the north side of the road; roundabouts at College and West avenues, a new viaduct and Rock Island bridge; and the relocation of the traffic signal at Westside Christian.

Alderman Mary McAdams inquired about the relocation of the traffic signal, and Hash said the signal will be moved eastward to accommodate construction of a new road between Hillsboro and the El Dorado High School campus.

Construction is under way.

The road will connect to Hillsboro just east of Westside to help alleviate traffic in the area of Timberlane just before and after school each day.

Hash said the new viaduct will include screening to boost pedestrian and railroad safety.

For its part of the agreement, the city will cover several features, including landscaping and irrigation systems/system capabilities, traffic signals “all the way through,” decorative traffic signal mast arms, railroad bridge lighting, wrought fencing for railroad bridges, and decorative light poles.

“It’s going to cost us, eventually, $3 million for the additional bells and whistles that we want,” Hash said.

Alderman Mike Rice inquired about medians, and Hash said the plan will include as much green space as possible, but “it won’t be solid green all the way down.”

The agreement was to originally have included U.S. 167 B, but the city has asked ARDoT to first take a look at the condition of the road, the mayor said.

“We don’t know what’s under there, and we don’t want to take all of that infrastructure until it is repaired and replaced,” Hash said.

He said the state later consented to separate agreements for the city to assume responsibility of the highways.

Hash said the agreement for U.S. 82 was a general outline of the city’s partnership with the state, adding that the city can negotiate changes to concepts during the design phase.

“This also allows us to get in the grant pipeline,” City Attorney Henry Kinslow said.

Blann asked if the city council would be allowed to attend future input meetings for the project, and Hash said yes.

“Well, there have been some input meetings that we haven’t been to. If it’s going to be on our shoulders, I’d like to have some input,” Blann said.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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