Bike and pedestrian path plans for Van Buren and Alma, wayfinding signs for west central Arkansas region cities and a downtown Fort Smith semi-truck traffic study are on tap in the coming year for the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization.

A Unified Planning Work Program with these and other tasks are set to be performed between July 1 and June 30, 2018. The program was approved by the MPO’s Technical Committee on Thursday. The Frontier MPO Policy Board will further discuss the items for approval at its meeting May 13.

Among the 34 tasks outlined in the program, MPO staff have completion of bicycle and pedestrian plans for Van Buren and Alma as priorities. MPO staff will also continue to work with Fort Smith Transit to provide technical assistance for improving transit services in the Fort Smith urbanized area, the program states.

MPO staff is also set to work with 64.6 Downtown, a Fort Smith nonprofit, on a truck traffic study to create a plan to “alleviate” through traffic. Dianne Morrison, executive director of Frontier MPO, said designation of one-way streets back to two-way streets, alternative routes and timing of deliveries during dining hours are examples of ways downtown truck traffic can be alleviated.

64.6 Downtown has already contracted with Gateway Planning to design an implementation plan for downtown Fort Smith as part of the Propelling Downtown Forward Initiative, which encompasses an in-depth analysis of previous downtown and city plans, according to the 64.6 Downtown website.

For several years, Fort Smith city leaders have talked about creating wayfinding signs to places like the library, city parks, and the convention center. In 2015, an MPO Wayfinding Sign Committee was formed with volunteer representatives from Alma, Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, Fort Smith Advertising & Promotion Commission, Greenwood and Van Buren.

After a two-year design phase, an estimate on the wayfinding signs is expected today or Monday, Morrison said. The estimate was aided by Time Striping Inc. of Van Buren, a company that makes signs and other highway materials. Cities must pay for their wayfinding signs. The volunteer committee was only tasked with designing them.

The latest cost estimate for the Interstate 49 connection from Arkansas 22 to U.S. 71 South, including a bridge over the Arkansas River, was also offered during the meeting by Jason Hughey of the Arkansas State Highway Transportation Department.

Hughey said the latest estimate for the future I-49 extension is $350 million.

Future lane closures are also expected on the Interstate 540 bridge over the Arkansas River in the coming months for a bridge paint job.

The AHTD is set to be renamed the Arkansas Department of Transportation by the end of the year. The future ARDOT will also encompass all state groups associated with air, rail, water and road ways.