In an effort to improve the condition of North Little Rock city streets, Mayor Joe Smith, the City Council, and City Engineer Mike Smith are working together to use state grant money for larger projects and city funds for an street overlay program in each ward.
During Monday’s meeting of North Little Rock City Council, Mike Smith told the council that the Main Street viaduct needs immediate attention and he has called for the closing of two of the Main Street viaduct’s four lanes to deal with repairs now during this upcoming weekend.
"In an effort to cause as little disruption as possible to current traffic patterns, the North Little Rock Public Works Department is announcing the weekend lane closure on the Main Street Viaduct on March 1-3," said Mike Smith. "The closure is necessary in order to repair a pavement failure."
Smith said traffic would be reduced to one lane in each direction on a portion of the bridge for the entire weekend, beginning Friday, March 1, at 7 p.m.
"Our Engineering and Street departments expect for the closure to remain until Sunday evening, March 3," added Mike Smith. "The public’s attention in the work zone is appreciated, as safety of our employees in our highest priority."
Mike Smith said some of the viaduct’s joints are coming apart and need repaired immediately.
"We are going to repair the worst one this weekend," Mike Smith said. "We will open them (the lanes) back up as soon as we can, hopefully Sunday evening."
Mike Smith said the city did not have a problem with motorists driving over damaged areas of the viaduct until the weekend because they are not bad enough to shut the road down immediately.
"It looks worse than it is," said Mayor Smith. "You can drive over it."
Mike Smith said the bridge currently is safe but if the city does not make immediate repairs it would not be.
Fixing the viaduct is just one of the repairs the city plans.
Plans are also in the works to spend $125,000 per city ward in a city overlay program. Mike Smith said he believes he will be able to overlay about 17 blocks per ward if the city earmarks $500,000 for the project.
"I will put out (for bid) 5,000 tons of asphalt at $100 per ton," Mike Smith said.
Mike Smith said he and his crews right now are inventorying North Little Rock city streets to decide which ones to recommend to aldermen to overlay.
"There are streets that are structurally sound but we may want to do something to them," Mike Smith said.
Mike Smith said he did a similar street canvassing in the years 2000, 2005 and 2006 before street overlay programs were implemented.
"There will always be more streets that need overlaid than we have money to work with," Mike Smith said.
The engineer’s office may need about three weeks to come up with a list of recommended streets, council members were told.
"What is the definition of a block," asked Alderman Charlie Hight, of which Mike Smith answered 360 feet long on a street having a residential width with 1.5 inches of asphalt.
Alderwoman Debi Ross suggested legislation that allocates $125,000 be passed at Monday’s council meeting, while council members Maurice Taylor and Linda Robinson expressed an interest in poling their constituents more to see which blocks would be overlaid in Ward 2.
While the overlay program is an immediate project, Mike Smith said a longer-term project is using up to $1 million in state grant funding to redo as much of Main Street as is financially feasible.
"We could do from the freeway to the viaduct, from 13th to 24th Street," Mike Smith said. "I would love to see it rebuilt. I have been looking at that for several years."
The city also has the option of rebuilding Main Street from Pershing Boulevard to the high school or about 20th to 21st streets. "That could easily be a $1 million project."
Mayor Smith asked the engineer to come up with a list of three potential projects that he and the council could decide upon to use state grant funding that is expected to come to the city for road projects during 2014.
"We will vote on that at the end of March," said Mayor Smith.