A key complaint for those who walk or cycle on the Arkansas River Trail is the section in Little Rock where the trail essentially ends and they have to join vehicular traffic on city streets. But a vote this week by the city’s Board of Directors and an agreement the mayor expects to announce soon could change that.
By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the board approved building a $1.1 million bridge for the river trail over Union Pacific railroad tracks alongside LaHarpe Boulevard. The contract with Manhattan Road & Bridge calls for the span to be 16 feet wide and take about six months to construct.
"It’ll go from the medical mile, which terminated right at the railroad tracks, and it will traverse up the hill and over the railroad tracks," said Mayor Mark Stodola, "we’re working then with Dillard’s on the remaining portion of the trail which I’m excited about, we’re making some progress, we’re almost there."
Negotiations with Dillard’s have been ongoing for years, with the trail to use part of the retailer’s corporate headquarters property. Stodola says his preference was to have the trail on the bluff along the Arkansas River, which the company hasn’t been amenable toward. But he said a compromise will be announced soon.
"I think they have come to appreciate the importance of it to the city and I am thankful for that. I think they, for one reason or another, don’t wish to see it of the bluff. It’s still something that I think ultimately might sometime in the future happen, but it’s an expensive proposition too and it’ll probably be less expensive to do what we’re going to do."
Stodola says a press conference will eventually be held to announce details. The efforts are part of a larger goal to have the river trail fully contained and not require pedestrians or cyclists to use streets shared with vehicles, which deters many families or novice cyclists.