ArDOT closes in on Oct. 7 bypass opening

Brad Smithee, District 10 engineer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, indicates one of the covered stop signs at the intersection of Highway 358 and the west Highway 412 bypass. The intersection is one of six that will be governed by stop signs when the bypass opens on Oct. 7, and Smithee urged motorists to take care to observe the signs to avoid serious accidents.

As the Highway 412 West Bypass project approaches its opening date, motorists should look for changes on the roads that intersect it.

“We have put up stop signs on each of the streets that cross the bypass,” said Brad Smithee, District 10 engineer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT).

The streets, Smithee said, are (from east to west):

Brown’s Chapel Road (Don Kirk Road)

Rockingchair Road

Highway 358 (Finch Road)

Spring Grove Road

Westbrook Road

Old Walcott Road

Pine Knot Road

The signs remain covered and therefore inactive until the bypass officially opens at 11 a.m. on Oct. 7.

“But we want to get the word out now,” Smithee said, “so people know to expect the stop signs when we uncover them.” He said the department would uncover the signs shortly before the bypass opens.

Smithee said some of the input he had received suggested the signs be uncovered earlier than Oct. 7, so drivers could get used to their presence.

“And it makes sense,” he said, “but what can happen is the first time somebody comes up to one of them, they stop, and then see the barricades and then go.”

The next time, however, perhaps the motorist may just slowdown, “maybe make a rolling stop,” and then proceed. “And the third time they just blow on through it,” he said.

When the highway opens, the motorists who have become used to ignoring the stop signs may not notice the barricades have also been removed upon the opening of the bypass, and risk encountering cross-traffic on the highway, traveling at highway speed.

“And that’s not likely to end well,” he said. “So we’ll keep them covered until we get the barricades out of the way and open up the bypass on Oct. 7.”

Smithee noted that the west bypass may appear “off-center” due to a wide open area on the south side of the roadway. “That’s because we bought the right of way over there as well,” he said.

Why? “Because although this project is finishing up, there are other plans in the future to build two more lanes over there, so this will be a four-lane highway.”

Therefore, what is currently a two-lane, two-way road will eventually become the two westbound lanes of the 412 bypass. That project, however, awaits increased demand and added funding.

Similarly, Smithee also noted a wide open area at all four corners of the intersection of Highway 358 and the bypass. “In the future there will be an overpass over the bypass,” Smithee said. “But that will be a huge footprint [in terms of land area] so we will put in a single-point urban interchange – a SPUI.”

According to yourdictionary.com, a SPUI is an interchange between a highway and a street, using a single set of traffic signals to allow traffic to proceed from either direction on each road to either direction on the other.

Smithee added that eventually the bypass intersections with Highway 49 and Highway 69 would have overpasses as well.

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