The traffic back-ups on Hwy. 100 during drive time in Maumelle are a daily headache. After more than a decade of waiting for an end to gridlock, one wonders when the new I-40 interchange will put an end to the inconvenience, and danger, of this traffic congestion. And although the Counts Massie Road extension is now finally nearing the end of construction, there is still not enough funding for the interchange construction and no date set for its completion. So the good news here is not so good. In addition, it turns out that the City of Maumelle and Mayor Mike Watson are getting ready to spend 3.2 million dollars on a separate road improvement project, but not in a way that will help the traffic congestion in Maumelle.
Soon an approximately 1.2 mile section of Crystal Hill Road will see widening to four lanes. This section is from the intersection at Hwy 100 to near Counts Massie Road. This is largely a rural portion of roadway along the Arkansas River, with no businesses present in this section, only private homes. This widening can only be accomplished by seizure of private land by eminent domain. The mayor has assured at least one landowner that, “I will take the land!”
This road improvement project was narrowly approved by voters in November of 2012 but the wording of the proposal may have been deceptive to voters. It stated “…finance a portion of the costs to design, engineer, improve, construct, acquire and repair the existing Crystal Hill Road …” It is important to note that this project will not improve to four lanes the entirety of Crystal Hill Road, only a small portion of it.
It is clear that this is a misuse and abuse of taxpayer dollars. The interchange is stalled due to lack of funds, yet millions will be spent on a road to nowhere. Mayor Watson said the interchange will be designed by next year, “…but we still don’t have the funding for it.” The mayor continued by saying, “The interchange’s cost could fall completely on Maumelle’s shoulders unless some state or federal funding comes along.” Watson told his City Council last week that its options at the moment are using about $9.6 million in general fund and street fund reserves or possibly asking Maumelle voters for a one-half percentage point city sales tax increase. “No decisions have been made,” he said.
It is now time for the taxpayers in Maumelle to call the mayor and other city officials to discuss the Crystal Hill Road improvement project. Besides traffic congestion, Maumelle also suffers from more than one dangerous intersection where numerous crashes have occurred. Money is needed to study and enhance the safety of roadways throughout Maumelle. But to double the size of a lightly traveled portion of Crystal Hill Road is, in a word, ridiculous.