Arkansas' Southwest Trail

Project Update

Project Update
March 2021

The Southwest Trail is one step closer to reality! On November 19, 2020, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), completing the project’s Environmental Assessment phase.

Visit the Documents and Graphics page
for more information on the FONSI
.

WHAT IT MEANS

For more than a year, the Garver Team conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA), which analyzed options for the trail route across Pulaski, Saline and Garland counties, reviewing each for impacts to the public and the environment. Through input gathered at in-person and virtual public meetings, options were narrowed to a preferred alignment presented last summer in a 45-day virtual public hearing. Upon compilation of and response to public comments, a final EA was submitted to ARDOT and FHWA for review, comment, and approval. The November 2020 receipt of the FONSI is important because it cleared the full 60-mile trail project for engineering design.

WHAT’S NEXT

The project team is conducting design kickoff meetings with local jurisdictions, including recent meetings with Little Rock and Benton, to discuss alignment, schedules, and funding. Other meetings have been held with Union Pacific Railroad and the Little Rock District Corps of Engineers, two key stakeholders, to discuss the project and prepare for future coordination as design detail is developed. Additional meetings with other communities and stakeholders are forthcoming, including Benton and Hot Springs, and the National Park Service.

Garver survey teams have begun topographical survey and right-of-way data collection in southern Pulaski County and will soon move into Saline County. This field-collected data will be the foundation for the project’s engineering design. These efforts also include identification of right-of-way and easements to be obtained within Saline County, which is part of a $3 million Metroplan grant received in fall 2020 for acquisition of trail rights-of-way across the county. That grant funding is part of Metroplan’s recently announced long-term commitment to bike and pedestrian projects in the area.

Engineering design work is underway on three new trail bridges within 4.7 miles of Pulaski County-owned right-of-way, between Heinke Road and Hilaro Springs Road. These bridges will be funded with a Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant received in early 2020 by Pulaski County. Design of the trail in this segment is also underway with Recreation Trails Program (RTP) funds in place to construct a portion of the segment. Pulaski County Public Works assisted the design team last summer and fall by clearing that segment of future trail, allowing survey and geotechnical teams to mobilize and begin their field work.

In Saline County, bids have been received for the refurbishment and reassembly of the Saline River Bridge, southwest of Benton. An important anchor for the trail, the bridge work will take almost a year, with final funding coming from a FLAP grant received by Saline County.