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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Nathan Bunch paints a tunnel Wednesday on a trail near Bella Vista. Students in Bentonville High School's Ignite Professional Studies digital design and photography class spent three days painting a design on the tunnel on the Razorback Greenway.

BENTONVILLE -- The intersection of Southeast J and Southeast Eighth streets is going to get better for pedestrians before it does for motorists.

The pedestrian tunnels planned to go under the two streets will be operational while construction to widen Eighth Street is being done, according to officials.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Kenzie Campbell paints near a tunnel Wednesday on a trail in Bentonville. Students in Bentonville High School’s Ignite Professional Studies digital design and photography class spent three days painting a design on the tunnel on the Razorback Greenway. The project was commissioned by the City Council and Public Art Advisory Committee.

Tunnels

Bentonville has nine pedestrian tunnels.

• Arkansas Missouri Trail at Interstate 49 adjacent to David Glass Technology Center.

• Crystal Bridges Trail at Northeast A Street.

• North Walton Boulevard Trail at North Walton Boulevard.

• North Walton Boulevard Trail at Ridgefield.

• North Bentonville Trail at Northwest A Street.

• Park Springs Park — single track trail tunnel connecting park to Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Park.

• South Bentonville Trail at Southeast Walton Boulevard.

• Wishing Spring Trail at North Walton Boulevard.

• Wishing Spring Trail at Interstate 49.

Source: Bentonville Parks and Recreation

Orange traffic cones filled the turn lanes on Southeast J Street on Wednesday as the section of Southeast Eighth Street is closed to move utilities. The Eighth Street Improvement Project includes widening the road from two to four lanes between Moberly Lane and Southwest I Street.

The City Council accepted a $576,504 grant from the NWA Trailblazers on Tuesday to help with increased costs for the project. The Walton Family Foundation initially gave the city $1.65 million for the tunnel project based on estimated cost, but the actual cost was higher, according to meeting documents.

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The city doesn't have to pay for the tunnel project, said Dennis Birge, city transportation engineer. Tunnels are becoming more common across Northwest Arkansas.

Bentonville has nine pedestrian tunnels and is planning another to go under Southeast 14th Street between Southeast J and Southeast O streets.

"The designs are at about 30 percent, and we're real close to getting into property acquisitions," said David Wright, parks and recreation director.

That project will include moving the Razorback Greenway between Southeast 13th Court and Southeast 18th Street.

There isn't a collective list of the pedestrian tunnels on the trail systems in the region's four largest cities, said Tim Conklin, assistant director of NWA Regional Planning Commission.

Cities are starting to plan and build tunnels before trail construction, he said. The tunnel under the Fulbright Expressway in Fayetteville was for stormwater, but the city built a trail in it. Springdale built a tunnel under Don Tyson Parkway with future trail connectivity in mind, he said.

"As we continue to see the popularity of the Razorback Greenway and the number of people who use the [trail] for recreation and transportation, [pedestrian tunnels] offer a much more safe way to cross major arterial roadways in Northwest Arkansas," Conklin said.

Southeast J Street is five lanes at the intersection and a major north-south corridor.

Birge said the tunnel and water and sewer work should be done by spring.

A 10-foot-wide hard surface trail will be built on the south side of Eighth Street, which runs east and west, as part of the improvement project. The Razorback Greenway runs north along Southeast J Street.

A T-intersection in the tunnel will allow trail users to continue on Eighth Street or turn onto J Street, said Erin Rushing, executive director of NWA Trailblazers.

"You're not going in one end and coming out the other. You're going in one end and you can come out two different ways," he said. "It's a way for both of those trails to go under that intersection without having to interfere with traffic."

Busy intersections such as the one at Southeast J and Southeast Eighth streets can deter people from using parts of the trail because it's inefficient and unsafe, Rushing said. It can take five to seven minutes for a user to cross both streets, Rushing said.

"If you're on a bike, it's a momentum killer," he said.

NW News on 09/14/2017

Print Headline: Pedestrian tunnels to be finished before road work

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