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Mith242

Light Rail in Northwest Arkansas

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I've posted some info on this in the Fayetteville topic but thought maybe I should make it another topic since this affects more than just Fayetteville. Just to recap what I've mentioned elsewhere. They have been doing some studies about the possibility of a light rail system here in northwest Arkansas. The studies have shown that there isn't much need at this current time but we will need one sometime soon. But if one is going to be built it needs to be started now. If we wait too long it will get to be too expensive to build. Especially the way real estate prices are going through the roof up here. So if it's going to be built it needs to be started as soon as possible even though we don't need one that badly just as yet. There's also the problem of knowing whether or not it will be successful. Are people to attached to their automobiles to use it? The price isn't cheap either. We're talking around $500 Mil to $1 Bil. That's a lot of money for something that might not catch on. In my personal opinion we are going to have to do something. It would be nice to try to develop something else instead of just trying to throw out more expessway lanes all over the place like California. But it is a lot of money for something that you're not sure if people will actually accept it and use it. Even if it is I do think they need a more comprehensive bus system to carry people to other areas away from the main rail route. Most of the route would follow the Arkansas Missouri railway that's already established. Although there would be a loop in Benton County to head out towards the airport. I also wonder if we do get this built does this mean we won't have to funds to do anymore road construction in the area? Even with a light rail I still think you'd need something to aside from I-540. Anyway does anyone have any thoughts or comments?

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It's a hefty price, but I would like it if they went through with it. They'll need something similar eventually, so they might as well make it while it's cheaper. Even if it takes a while to catch on, it will be worth it in the long run. I could imagine urban neighborhoods and communities popping up all over the rail system route, just to make use of it.

The metrolink in St. Louis does goes through a lot of "suburb" type communities, and it does just fine. Particularly when there is a convention of some sort in downtown St. Louis, the trains are completely packed. Now, imagine a convention in Springdale, Fayetteville, Bentonville, or Rogers. The amount of people who just want a short, simple commute would be pretty large.

The University of Arkansas could find the system pretty useful if they extended it around the campus and sporting facilities. In fact, the Metrolink in St. Louis passes by at least two college campuses. Imagine people from around NWA and the UA college campus hitching a ride to a sporting event.

I want to reiterate this point: if it is built, urban communities will likely be built to accomodate it. That said, it is still a hefty chunk of change, and it would be nice if some of those billionaires in concentrated in that part of the state would pay for part of it. That's where Little Rock isn't nearly as blessed. We don't have as many extremely wealthy businessmen, so progress is often so much slower. You guys should use what you have :-) .

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It's a hefty price, but I would like it if they went through with it.  They'll need something similar eventually, so they might as well make it while it's cheaper.  Even if it takes a while to catch on, it will be worth it in the long run.  I could imagine urban neighborhoods and communities popping up all over the rail system route, just to make use of it. 

The metrolink in St. Louis does goes through a lot of "suburb" type communities, and it does just fine.  Particularly when there is a convention of some sort in downtown St. Louis, the trains are completely packed.  Now, imagine a convention in Springdale, Fayetteville, Bentonville, or Rogers.  The amount of people who just want a short, simple commute would be pretty large.

The University of Arkansas could find the system pretty useful if they extended it around the campus and sporting facilities.  In fact, the Metrolink in St. Louis passes by at least two college campuses.  Imagine people from around NWA and the UA college campus hitching a ride to a sporting event. 

I want to reiterate this point: if it is built, urban communities will likely be built to accomodate it.  That said, it is still a hefty chunk of change, and it would be nice if some of those billionaires in concentrated in that part of the state  would pay for part of it.  That's where Little Rock isn't nearly as blessed.  We don't have as many extremely wealthy businessmen, so progress is often so much slower.  You guys should use what you have :-) .

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You do have a point but at the same time you also have to have a project that one of them is interested in. I personally would really like it to be built. But I also must admit I do worry if it's something that may not ever be totally accepted. Most of northwest Arkansas is set up more like a bunch of surburbs, and I'm not sure how willing people will be to give up their automobiles. I also don't know if I'd like the idea if most of our money for road additions and construction might be tied into such a project. But if it does happen to go through I think it could help develop more of an urban character to northwest Arkansas. I could see it working in Fayetteville, it's a pretty liberal town. There are actually a number of people up here who refuse to own vehicles and such. But I guess another question is even if there are enough people who like the idea will it actually ever come to fruition.

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You do have a point but at the same time you also have to have a project that one of them is interested in.  I personally would really like it to be built.  But I also must admit I do worry if it's something that may not ever be totally accepted.  Most of northwest Arkansas is set up more like a bunch of surburbs, and I'm not sure how willing people will be to give up their automobiles.  I also don't know if I'd like the idea if most of our money for road additions and construction might be tied into such a project.  But if it does happen to go through I think it could help develop more of an urban character to northwest Arkansas.  I could see it working in Fayetteville, it's a pretty liberal town.  There are actually a number of people up here who refuse to own vehicles and such.  But I guess another question is even if there are enough people who like the idea will it actually ever come to fruition.

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I'm sure conservatives would enjoy riding around in public transportation too, if only for "souvenir" type kicks. lol.

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I do think in the long run it would be quite useful. Down the road (pun intended) I do see traffic getting worse especially between cities, in particular I-540. Because road projects always seem to be behind, you would conclude that it's simply not going to keep up with the growth up here. There are a number of times I think about taking a drive up to Benton County just to see what's going on and what's being built up there. But a lot of times I don't bother just because I don't feel like dealing with all the traffic. Especially if I don't have a specific purppose other than 'just look around'. It could certainly be a useful tool in the future.

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Well apparently Benton county residents agree that a commuter rail is very important for its future:

http://www.nwanews.com/story.php?paper=bcd...s&storyid=22705

In a citizens meeting it was ranked one of the top four priorities for transportation improvements.

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Well it's nice to know it's being supported in Benton County also. Maybe this will actually have a chance of getting off the ground. I really think that Fayetteville would support this. Of course it would also help is one of the major families up here like the Waltons or the Tysons would take an interest in it and help it along.

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What are the traffic stats up there?  Especially for I-540... anyone know?

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It's been so long since I've seen some of the numbers counts I don't know if I can come up with any accurate guesses. The only thing I can tell you off hand is that they did a study and concluded all of I-540 in the metro area should be widened to 6 or 8 lanes. All of it being 4 lanes now.

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It's been so long since I've seen some of the numbers counts I don't know if I can come up with any accurate guesses.  The only thing I can tell you off hand is that they did a study and concluded all of I-540 in the metro area should be widened to 6 or 8 lanes.  All of it being 4 lanes now.

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Just did a check on the ahtd website. Looks like 540 reaches over 50K per day in the Springdale area. Enought to justify 6 lanes, but nothing near highways such as US 67 in Jacksonville (over 80K), which is still just 4 lanes. They are, however, widening 67 through North Little Rock.

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I admit I've wondered how the counts up here would compare to places around central Arkansas. But most of what has been recommended to be expanded to 8 lanes isn't around Fayetteville or Springdale, it's up in Benton County. Even though Washington County has the two biggest cities in the metro traffic on I-540 in Benton County seems much worse than down here in Washington County.

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Personally, I think the light rail talk is somewhat unwarranted at this time. I recently spent time researching Nashville, TN, whom is exploring the light rail and commuter rail options. With an MSA of over 1 million it is still doubtful whether Nashville has the density to support a rail system.

I think I was reading in Vuchic book as he stated that rail of that type really isn't feasible until you reach about a 12 dwelling unit per acre threshold. I believe given the current way NWA is developing, it will be a long time before that happens. The area will probably have to choke on its own sprawl before rail talk becomes valid.

I do believe a western bypass is warranted given the lack of multiple VIABLE North-South corridors in the area. I know how terrible my commute was last summer when the resurfacing project was occurring on I-540. I realized NWA is screwed if there were to be a toxic spill on I-540. We need a really good secondary corridor. HWY 59 is too far west and two lane, HWY 112 is just a minor two lane with several interferring small communities along the way, and 71B is already overly congested. Thus, we have the idea of creating a western four-lane controlled access or partially controlled access highway in a separate right-of-way. The problematic thing with that is it will spur more sprawl.

I may sound pessimitic, but I don't believe NWA will be a nice place to live in say 20 years unless the NWA regional planning steps up with some backbone and vision. Their recent work is nice, but other than that I have little if anything from them of tangible value. If they don't step up, we will continue to see 4 relatively independent communities trying to execute their own individual visions of what NWA should be.

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Personally, I think the light rail talk is somewhat unwarranted at this time.  I recently spent time researching Nashville, TN, whom is exploring the light rail and commuter rail options.  With an MSA of over 1 million it is still doubtful whether Nashville has the density to support a rail system.

I think I was reading in Vuchic book as he stated that rail of that type really isn't feasible until you reach about a 12 dwelling unit per acre threshold.  I believe given the current way NWA is developing, it will be a long time before that happens.  The area will probably have to choke on its own sprawl before rail talk becomes valid.

I do believe a western bypass is warranted given the lack of multiple VIABLE North-South corridors in the area.  I know how terrible my commute was last summer when the resurfacing project was occurring on I-540.  I realized NWA is screwed if there were to be a toxic spill on I-540.  We need a really good secondary corridor.  HWY 59 is too far west and two lane, HWY 112 is just a minor two lane with several interferring small communities along the way, and 71B is already overly congested.  Thus, we have the idea of creating a western four-lane controlled access or partially controlled access highway in a separate right-of-way.  The problematic thing with that is it will spur more sprawl.

I may sound pessimitic, but I don't believe NWA will be a nice place to live in say 20 years unless the NWA regional planning steps up with some backbone and vision.  Their recent work is nice, but other than that I have little if anything from them of tangible value.  If they don't step up, we will continue to see 4 relatively independent communities trying to execute their own individual visions of what NWA should be.

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First of all welcome to the forum. And second I do see your point. I admit I do like the idea very much, but I also have to admit I am worried because it's a lot of money to be spent on something that might not be used or accepted. I've always thought it might be nice to have an interstate quality road on the east side. Although I guess you would mainly help Fayetteville and Springdale. Beaver Lake would cut off Rogers. But it's also flatter to the west and therefor a bit easier for development. Your point about Nashville was interesting. There was a study projecting almost one million people in the metro by 2050. Although I'm still not sure if building more roads helps everything. Maybe another thing to take into consideration is what are gas prices going to be 10 or even 20 years from now. At that point maybe light rail might sound like a good idea if gas has gotten above $5 a gallon.

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I don't think light rail the way it is being proposed would do well at all in NWA. I don't think the ridership would justify the costs, which in terms of sheer track distance will have to approach or exceed what Dallas's DART system covers and it loses big chunks of money annually despite heavy ridership. I'm not saying in 20 or 30 years it might not be reasonable, just not now. The buses are hardly utilized at all now, which shows little demand for public transportation.

What I think would do well if an electric trolley system throughout the UA campus and Dickson St and the square in Fayetteville. I think it would have heavy ridership by students and visitors/tourists. West Virginia has this and it does very well there and it would keep the students from having to walk long distances to class and lead to less parking requirements and traffic in the area.

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Yeah....On second thoughts, I'm not sure if a light rail would do so well....

Then again, the LR trolley will never be paid back either......but they keep developing for it......

Light rail transit probably wouldn't work.........needs to be placed by middle/lower class residential areas.....needs to be more dense....etc.

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I don't think light rail the way it is being proposed would do well at all in NWA.  I don't think the ridership would justify the costs, which in terms of sheer track distance will have to approach or exceed what Dallas's DART system covers and it loses big chunks of money annually despite heavy ridership.  I'm not saying in 20 or 30 years it might not be reasonable, just not now.  The buses are hardly utilized at all now, which shows little demand for public transportation.

What I think would do well if an electric trolley system throughout the UA campus and Dickson St and the square in Fayetteville.  I think it would have heavy ridership by students and visitors/tourists.  West Virginia has this and it does very well there and it would keep the students from having to walk long distances to class and lead to less parking requirements and traffic in the area.

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That's part of the problem, we don't really need one now, but two or three deaceds when we might need one it will probably too expensive to try to start one then. That's why people are trying to get the ball rolling now. But maybe it would make sense to do it in smaller sections and then leave room to eventually connect the sections together.

And yes it would be nice if they did something like that around the square and Dickson St and U of A campus area. I must say you seem to know the area pretty well.

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The Future Transportation Thread is getting way too long, so I've decided to make a thread devoted to the Potential NW Arkansas Light Rail System.

Here's a map of the proposed stops:

scan0001.gif

My opinion on this is that the loop out to XNA seems like a big waste of money. It would be better to have the Light Rail inbetween the 4 cities instead of Centerton and XNA. There's practically no density out there, and all that's being developed out there is single-family homes, which I can't see using the Light Rail System except occasionly.

Any thoughts?

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The Future Transportation Thread is getting way too long, so I've decided to make a thread devoted to the Potential NW Arkansas Light Rail System.

Here's a map of the proposed stops:

scan0001.gif

My opinion on this is that the loop out to XNA seems like a big waste of money. It would be better to have the Light Rail inbetween the 4 cities instead of Centerton and XNA. There's practically no density out there, and all that's being developed out there is single-family homes, which I can't see using the Light Rail System except occasionly.

Any thoughts?

Good idea. I know we have discussed this before but just to bring everything up to speed to this topic. I also agree with you. With the cost being so high I think we really should focus on the main area that the light rail would benefit. I say have it run from Fayetteville to Rogers/Bentonville. If this proves successful enough in the future, then add on to it then. Then you can go for the loop out west. The only real benefit is to have it go to XNA, but the airport might not welcome it. If you make it too easy to get to the airport then no one will want to pay for parking and such. I'd also drop out Greenland too. I think having it at Fayetteville will be far enough south for quite a while. But the same thing applies to it. If it turns out to be very successful in the future then worry about expanding the route further out to other areas.

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^Good Point Mith.

Greenland is a town not even 1,000 residents, it doesn't need a light rail stop. The Rail should focus on Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, and Lowell.

If Urban Growth progresses in Centerton and Greenland, than the track can be expanded, but it just doesn't seem feasable to include these stops. The airport, I would choose not to include because it may not be very well supported as well. I could see businessmen using it for Wal-Mart and Tyson, but I just can't see regulars at the airport giving up their vehicles to take a trip on the light rail to go on vacation.

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Yeah I say for when it's initially built, or if, you just start off with the core cities. Hopefully this will keep costs down and make it more likely to happen in the first place. I'd really like to see some studies on all of this. Show some projected costs for the 'core' route and the extended route. I'd also like to see some projected costs on keeping it a light rail or possible having it run on the current A&M rail that already exists.

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Yeah I say for when it's initially built, or if, you just start off with the core cities. Hopefully this will keep costs down and make it more likely to happen in the first place. I'd really like to see some studies on all of this. Show some projected costs for the 'core' route and the extended route. I'd also like to see some projected costs on keeping it a light rail or possible having it run on the current A&M rail that already exists.

I would like to see a comparison with the "core" route and the "extended" route.

I'm sure it wouldn't cost more than $100 Million at the most if the current A/M railroad was used only for Imporvements, Stations, Infastructure, Right of Way, The third rail or electric system, Railcars and Misc. Land Expenses.

It usually costs a few million for every mile of railroad track to be laid. Not to mention that the land has to be grated and even.

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I would like to see a comparison with the "core" route and the "extended" route.

I'm sure it wouldn't cost more than $100 Million at the most if the current A/M railroad was used only for Imporvements, Stations, Infastructure, Right of Way, The third rail or electric system, Railcars and Misc. Land Expenses.

It usually costs a few million for every mile of railroad track to be laid. Not to mention that the land has to be grated and even.

Not to mention the fact that the right of way also would have to be pruchased where real estate prices are steadily rising.

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Not to mention the fact that the right of way also would have to be pruchased where real estate prices are steadily rising.

Yeah.

It might be good for them to buy the right of way out there, but not actually construct that land. And if they don't use that land for the light rail, they could probably sell it, and make quite a bit of profit.

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Yeah.

It might be good for them to buy the right of way out there, but not actually construct that land. And if they don't use that land for the light rail, they could probably sell it, and make quite a bit of profit.

True, and if they are going to buy it buy it now. Even if this whole thing may not come about for quite a while. If they wait it will become so expensive to get started. I think that's what many people don't quite catch when they first hear about one here in northwest Arkansas.

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Light rail in northwest Arkansas...wow. I hope it gets done. Is there enough density outside of Fayettville to support one? Here in minneapolis, our rail opened last year and the thing is fantastic. Of course, I know pretty much nothing about the specifics or economics of the project, but I'm a big fan of public transit and I'm a big fan of NWA - So I think It'd be pretty sweet. I gotta tell you too, having it go to the airport is really nice and lots and lots of people here choose to avoid the traffic and the parking and take the train.

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