Change to new Maumelle I-40 exit raises safety questions

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PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. — A last minute change to a Pulaski County road project has many neighbors afraid their homes won’t be safe.

It all started when the Arkansas Department of Transportation decided to add a new exit into Maumelle on I-40.

Part of the plan included opening up the dead end on Short Marche Road, giving the people who live there and first responders easier access.

Construction crews opened the road last year, but neighbors say they just found out Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde now plans to turn the road back into a dead end.

“I’ve gotten used to the road being open now and I like it,” said longtime homeowner Bill Buford.

Buford and many neighbors were concerned about the traffic that opening the road could create, but they say the convenience and ease for first responders outweigh any extra cars.

“It hasn’t been that bad,” he said. “It’s increased some, but it hasn’t been that bad.”

When the road was cut off, the only entrance onto Short Marche was near railroad tracks where neighbors say trains often stop, blocking the road. On top of that, Short Marche is prone to flooding. Buford calls both of those reasons safety hazards, arguing that’s why the road needs to stay open.

“If we needed to get out in a medical emergency or get an ambulance in we wouldn’t be able to,” Buford said. “The County Judge should have consulted with us before he decided to close the road again.”

The stretch of road closest to what used to be a dead end wasn’t designed for two-way traffic, and it’s so narrow drivers are swerving into yards just to pass each other. Judge Hyde cites that as part of the reason he wants to close the area.

“All we have asked down at the south end of this road, is to make it as passable as the north end,” said Ellen Baxter, who also lives off the road.

Baxter is helping to organize a petition. By Sunday night she had collected nearly a hundred signatures, but says 6 people on the street are against the plan. She says Judge Hyde agreed to reconsider closing the road if everyone living there signed the petition.

“Democracy ain’t a hundred percent so to me majority should rule,” Baxter added.

Maumelle Mayor Caleb Norris says he’s on board with keep the road open, but that decision is ultimately up to Judge Hyde.

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