LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Metroplan will soon release a major bike trail expansion project for public comment. The plan is inspired by Northwest Arkansas’ regional greenway, which makes walking or biking alternative options for primary transportation.
Tab Townsell is Metroplan’s Executive Director. He said the plan features more than 170 miles in new trails that connect at a central hub in Little Rock. The trails expand in all directions, including Conway, Lonoke, Benton and others.
“All of this can be part of a transportation system, not necessarily the whole length but just inside of it,” Townsell said. “It just becomes an alternative way to get from A to B or C to D.”
Townsell said Metroplan is using half of a yearly $15 million federal Surface Transportation Block grant to fund this project. Over a 10-year span, that would result in $75 million. Cities and counties are required to match the investment at a 20% mark, meaning they would handle that much of the total project cost.
The five proposed routes:
- The Southwest Trail
- This would run from Little Rock Central High School through the southern portion of Little Rock, through rural Pulaski County across to Benton.
- Central Little Rock
- This would go from the Arkansas River Trail to Central High along the north side of I-630 to I-430 to follow Rock Creek nearly to Chenal.
- Eastern Greenway
- This runs from North Little Rock to Lonoke paralleling Highway 70 on old rail lines and secondary highways. This path will likely pick up the National US80 Bike Route heading west from Memphis.
- Northeast Greenway
- This goes from North Little Rock via the Levy trail into Sherwood before advancing to Cabot, Austin and Ward.
- Northwest Greenway
- This moves from North Little Rock out of Cook’s Landing into Maumelle before going into Faulkner County. It then picks up Mayflower and Conway before starting out towards a future path heading into the Greenbrier area.
Townsell said public comment will be invaluable to the project, and Metroplan hopes to have final plans approved by June. It could take a couple of years for construction to begin.
“It’s not going to be built overnight,” Townsell said.
Matt Seelinger owns Spokes Giant in Little Rock. He said the biking community in Central Arkansas grew with the edition of two new mountain bike trails, but commuters find it difficult to traverse car-friendly infrastructure.
“If it was a little more available for them to travel safely, it would create so much more interest in people actually being able to use [bikes] for transportation,” Seelinger said.
Seelinger said adding a regional, connected bike trail system would be beneficial to people who want alternative modes of transportation.
“It would allow people to be able to travel on bicycles, not only just doing it for fun, for leisure,” Seelinger said.
Jett Herrington, who’s been an avid biker for around a year, said the addition is welcome.
“It’s super cool that a greenway is coming because that just means more diversity for the biking community,” Herrington said.