Improvements are on the way to several traffic signals along a busy route through the heart of Van Buren after the city council accepted a bid from Pinkley Sales Company for signal upgrades at nine intersections Monday night (March 18).
In all, eight traffic signals will be upgraded from 4th Street and Broadway up to the intersection of Alma Boulevard and U.S. 64. A ninth signal will be upgraded at the base of Fayetteville Road and Main Street, according to Mayor Bob Freeman. The total cost for upgrades will be $152,028.76 plus sales tax.
Freeman said the improvements were needed to improve traffic flow through the city.
“It may help it some by changing the traffic, communication between signals,” Freeman said prior to the meeting.
He said the upgrades were needed not just for improved traffic flow, which would only be slightly improved, but also to replace aging equipment and bring certain intersections up to 21st century standards.
“Part of this is putting up battery backup, some is putting in camera systems,” Freeman said, explaining that the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and Kibler Road is “dumb,” lacking a camera system to control switching based on car movements.
For anyone using the route as an alternative to Interstate 540 while it is under construction, the mayor said they should not expect a commute as fast as an interstate.
He said city streets are simply not designed to provide a quick commute.
“When you move 13,000 cars off of I-540 to other roads, you're going to having a problems, especially when they're running on roads without controls and now onto controlled roadways.”
Freeman said commuters entering Van Buren from Fort Smith and hoping for less congestion on the Midland Avenue bridge will not see a drastic improvement, either.
“If that light was put on full flow open, then that would help somewhat,” he said. “But it's open up as much as it can be because of traffic coming up on 4th Street.”
He said the biggest improvement is that all of the traffic signals along the U.S. Highway 64 corridor will be communicating with each other using the new equipment, which could possibly improve flow. But Freeman cautioned anyone expecting big changes.
“I don't want to paint a picture that it will solve a problem, because it's not,” he said.
Freeman said the project would likely be completed within four months.
In other business, the city council:
• Approved a resolution funding a required audit of federal funds contracts received in 2012;
• Approved a resolution providing an additional $50,000 in funding for the Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority;
• Approved a resolution authorizing a fixed asset disposal of a lawn mower at the Field of Dreams complex;
• Approved a resolution endorsing White Dairy Ice Cream Company for the Tax Back Program;
• Approved a resolution endorsing Arkansas Poly for the Tax Back Program;
• Approved a City Depository Board consisting of the mayor, city clerk and alderwoman Donna Parker; and
• Approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to contract for telecommunications equipment and services for the city.