Trail Safety Improvements In The Works For Bentonville

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BENTONVILLE (KFSM) - Walkers, runners and cyclists won't have to wait at the Southeast J Street and 8th Street intersection much longer.

The busy intersection is being re-designed for the Razorback Greenway Trail, which will include the construction of a pedestrian tunnel.

"A tunnel would be great," said an avid cyclist and Flat Tire Bike Shop employee. "You wouldn't have pedestrians in the intersection and then you could just cruise through. It would be hassle free."

Currently, Greenway users have to cross both streets to get back on the trail.

"'It increases the level of safety for the trail users and it also removes the potential interaction between a cyclist or a runner and traffic," said Paxton Roberts, executive director for the Bicycling Coalition of the Ozarks.

The tunnel will look similar to the structure in place underneath Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, near South Gregg Avenue in Fayetteville.

The Walton Family Foundation will cover the entire estimated $1.6 million cost, according to Mike Churchwell, transportation director of Bentonville.

Another bike trail project, separate from the J and 8th Streets project is in the early stages. It would ensure that bikers, walkers and runners could stay on the Razorback Greenway Trail, near Bentonville High School, and safely cross 14th Street.

"People [will] not have to leave the off street trail, ride their bike down the street, cross a very busy intersection at [Highway] 102 to hope back on the trail," said David Wright, director of Bentonville Parks & Recreation.

The project is still in the grant writing process, according to Wright, who said estimates put the cost around $2.5 million. He said the Walton Family Foundation has agreed to pay $2.25 million, while the city is expected to cover any remaining costs.

"It's an application at this point, hopefully we'll hear back in December from them on whether it's a project that the state is interested in being a part of," said Wright. "If they are, then we'll proceed and go from there."

The tunnel project at J Street and 8th Street is scheduled for completion by Spring 2017.