Pulaski, Saline, and Garland counties, in coordination with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, are studying location alternatives for the Southwest Trail. The purpose is to provide a connection to Hot Springs National Park, the Old River Bridge on the Saline River, the Little Rock Central High School Historic Site, and the Arkansas River Trail System that allows for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely enjoy outdoor recreation while providing an economic stimulus to the local and regional economies.
The purpose of the Environmental Assessment (EA) is to identify a preferred trail alignment that minimizes the negative impacts to the natural and social environment while addressing the needs of the project to the greatest extent possible.
After a review of comments received from citizens, public officials, and public agencies, the next step in the environmental process will be to prepare a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) document for review by the FHWA. The approved FONSI will identify the Selected Alternative and concludes the National Environmental Policy Act process. Right of way acquisition can then begin.
Public outreach has included the below methods:
- Two rounds of newspaper ads in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, The Saline Courier, and The Sentinel-Record
- A legal ad in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette
- News releases sent to media in Pulaski, Saline, and Garland counties
- Social media posts made through various groups on Facebook and Twitter
- Email and mail notifications sent to previous public meeting attendees along with those who have requested inclusion on the contact list
- Websites posting information, such as the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the county websites for Pulaski, Saline, and Garland
- More than 1,300 postcards mailed to property owners along the alignment. (Property owners within a 60-foot buffer zone of the alignment were mailed a postcard per the address identified on property owner documentation)
- Paid Service Announcements on several local radio stations
The trail alignment has been studied and a preferred alignment has been approved by the FHWA for public review and comment. The trail is approximately 60 miles long and located in parts of Garland, Saline, and Pulaski counties. The preferred alignment is available for review and comment on the Preferred Alternative page.
The trail is estimated to be approximately 60 miles long and located in Garland, Saline, and Pulaski counties.
The trail will use a variety of shared-use paths along existing roadways as well as new location sections. Examples of various path construction options are included in the Exhibits and Materials page.
The design process involves more than drawing lines on maps. There are many considerations to make the Southwest Trail a safe, enjoyable, cost-efficient trail that fits well into the communities it will impact. Some of these considerations include:
Road crossings, bridges and culverts, railroad crossings, safety, residential impacts, business impacts, economic impacts, indirect impacts, Environmental Justice, wetlands, floodplains, endangered species, access and user safety, community connections, topography (trail grade), hazardous materials sites, and right of way and construction costs.
Funding for construction has not been determined, and the availability of funding will dictate when the trail sections are built and complete. It is likely the trail will be built in sections and over a period of time as funding allows. It is too early to say when construction will begin and be complete.
The preliminary estimate is approximately $42 million, which does not include any right-of-way acquisition. It is anticipated that the trail will be funded through a variety of ways, including grants and private financing.
Each jurisdiction will determine how the trail is maintained. The project team is already hearing from bicycling groups and other individuals who may volunteer their time.
The project team is currently working to define the alignment. If the final alignment is on your property, you will be contacted and negotiations will take place with you as the property owner.
The project is owned by Pulaski, Saline, and Garland counties. Engineering firm Garver is providing Environmental Assessment services. The Federal Highway Administration and ARDOT are providing oversight responsibilities in coordination with the counties.