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mcheiss

Transportation Projects, Roads, Light Rail, etc

Future Proposed Northwest Arkansas Transportation Projects  

103 members have voted

  1. 1. Which Project is the best option for the future of Northwest Arkansas?

    • 10 Stop Light Rail System
      33
    • Western Bypass
      15
    • I-540 Improvements (6 to 8 lanes)
      35
    • Eastern Parkway
      6
    • Regionwide Bus Service
      8
    • Pedestrian Facilities
      1
    • Bicycle Facilities
      4
    • Ride Share Programs
      1


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It takes years, sometimes decades for transit routes to reach their full ridership. People have to be confident that a route will be there long haul before they change their routine. That especially applies to choice riders. The trolley was a lame, small-scale vanity project, and it was obvious that it could (and did) disappear quickly.

That's another thing in favor of rail--the up-front investment is so high that it's much more difficult politically to shut them down compared to a bus route.

Edited by aerotive

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I worked on the square 10 or 12 years ago when the city bought bus type trolleys like the ones up in Eureka. There were two of them that ran from the courthouse down Dickson across West street and back around the square. The longest you ever had to wait on one to come by was 10-15 minutes. They were almost always empty! I wonder what the ridership is on the new weekend shuttle from the square to Dickson Street. I've also noticed this trend for the trolleys in Little Rock. They go round and round and with the exception of a few tourist they're empty. Maybe once the population grows to the point that parking becomes a nightmare or when gas prices go up to $5 or $6 a gallon it will become a more attractive option.

That reminds me of a pet peeve I have. People calling those buses like the ones in Eureka Springs, trolleys. But they're not trolleys at all, they're just dressed up buses. As Aerotive mentioned, sometimes it takes time for a route to be fully utilized. I could also mention that I think Fayetteville has also changed in the last 12 years as well. I've wondered if part of the problem is public knowledge of the bus routes as well. A number of ORT's routes have changed. I wish we could get a stable service and maybe get the word out. I'm just not sure the word gets out even when there is a new route established.

It takes years, sometimes decades for transit routes to reach their full ridership. People have to be confident that a route will be there long haul before they change their routine. That especially applies to choice riders. The trolley was a lame, small-scale vanity project, and it was obvious that it could (and did) disappear quickly.

That's another thing in favor of rail--the up-front investment is so high that it's much more difficult politically to shut them down compared to a bus route.

Yeah there are positives and negatives to each. But I'm a bit like you. One of the things I'd like to see with rail type system is because you've had to put down the money for the rails you sorta have to justify keeping the route around. Where as with a bus, it seems like it's easier just to give up. Or easy to cut back funding later.

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Yeah there are positives and negatives to each. But I'm a bit like you. One of the things I'd like to see with rail type system is because you've had to put down the money for the rails you sorta have to justify keeping the route around. Where as with a bus, it seems like it's easier just to give up. Or easy to cut back funding later.

I don't think it is a case of one or the other- if you had rails you would still have to have the greatly expanded bus system to bring riders to it. A expanded bus sytem like could be had with the ORT proposal is needed and much more feasible. Any rail system with it's expanded bus sytem would be a huge investment upfront and then the upkeep afterwards would be very expensive without any guarantee that it would ever be used much. I just can't see that getting the support needed to pass the large local tax increase needed. The federal and state governments certainly won't pay for it.

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I don't think it is a case of one or the other- if you had rails you would still have to have the greatly expanded bus system to bring riders to it. A expanded bus sytem like could be had with the ORT proposal is needed and much more feasible. Any rail system with it's expanded bus sytem would be a huge investment upfront and then the upkeep afterwards would be very expensive without any guarantee that it would ever be used much. I just can't see that getting the support needed to pass the large local tax increase needed. The federal and state governments certainly won't pay for it.

I agree, I think a bus system is a lot more feasible. As we've stated already a lot lower start up cost. And true there are no guarantees. Rail systems have shown that are more popular than bus systems. But doesn't necessarily mean it would be a success here. I'm still a pro-rail person and I'd still like to have some sort of rail system here. But I'd also like to see a much improved bus service as well. I'd prefer rail, but if a good bus service is all I can get then I'll take it. :)

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People don't want to ride the bus. A rail line is permanent, and encourages longterm changes to the area that Fayetteville is working on.

Its expensive, but I could see a rail line starting out at the Square, or on the UA campus, and running down to College Avenue. From there, it makes the route down to Evelyn Hills. Turnaround there, and come back.

Evelyn Hills could be made into a higher density node of retail and even apartments/condos. Everybody downtown eventually makes their way to Ozark Natural Foods and some of the other local retailers. On football gamedays, I could see people parking or getting a bite to eat at Evelyn Hills and riding the trolley downtown or up to campus.

Stops I envision along College Avenue:

1) Courthouse

2) Marvin's IGA.

3) Wilson Park/Lacuna

4) UAMSNW

5) Evelyn Hills

There you have several good spots for people to get on and get off the trolley. That runs through one of the densest areas of the city, and also one of the steepest areas, where people are less inclined to walk or cycle.

You have your government services, neighborhood groceries, Park/Trail access, Medical Center, and Shopping/Dining destinations. I think Evelyn Hills is a good turn around because its got ample parking that could allow for some park&ride. Given downtown's pay parking ordeal, I could see people using that option. It also makes for a more interesting, quaint evening riding the trolley downtown.

Once this leg is established, look at adding a longer line. Maybe extend it out to Fiesta Square first, before leaping all the way out to the Mall area.

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People don't want to ride the bus. A rail line is permanent, and encourages longterm changes to the area that Fayetteville is working on.

Its expensive, but I could see a rail line starting out at the Square, or on the UA campus, and running down to College Avenue. From there, it makes the route down to Evelyn Hills. Turnaround there, and come back.

Evelyn Hills could be made into a higher density node of retail and even apartments/condos. Everybody downtown eventually makes their way to Ozark Natural Foods and some of the other local retailers. On football gamedays, I could see people parking or getting a bite to eat at Evelyn Hills and riding the trolley downtown or up to campus.

Stops I envision along College Avenue:

1) Courthouse

2) Marvin's IGA.

3) Wilson Park/Lacuna

4) UAMSNW

5) Evelyn Hills

There you have several good spots for people to get on and get off the trolley. That runs through one of the densest areas of the city, and also one of the steepest areas, where people are less inclined to walk or cycle.

You have your government services, neighborhood groceries, Park/Trail access, Medical Center, and Shopping/Dining destinations. I think Evelyn Hills is a good turn around because its got ample parking that could allow for some park&ride. Given downtown's pay parking ordeal, I could see people using that option. It also makes for a more interesting, quaint evening riding the trolley downtown.

Once this leg is established, look at adding a longer line. Maybe extend it out to Fiesta Square first, before leaping all the way out to the Mall area.

I think that's a pretty goo idea. As you said it's not too long and sorta hilly in that area. If you could get that established well then you could work your way northward. You certainly won't hear any complaints out of me on that plan. :)

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It looks like Arkansas voters may get to vote on a couple of tax increases to pay for a $2.8 billion highway program. The tax increases would be a half cent sales tax that would end in ten years and a increase in the diesel tax of 5 cents per gallon. The sales tax would pay for a $1.8 billion bond program that would result in a 5 year highway construction phase. One of the key aims of the project would be to build a 4 lane highway grid over the state. The diesel tax would more than double the existing tax and raise around $500 million for highway maintenance. It sounds like the governor and Highway Commission both support the plan. The sales tax vote would be on the November, 2012 ballot and the diesel tax vote would be a special election next year. It should be noted that the cost to taxpayers for the $1.8 billion worth of bonds will be much more when interest is figured in.

This sounds like the state government is wasting their time again on a bond program that will not pass and would be a huge waste of taxpayer money. Building a 4 lane grid that covers the entire state is not needed - building roads to areas with declining populations is not going to revive those areas. The economic problems of the Delta region are not because the roads aren't wide enough. Raising the sales tax after all the hoopla about cutting it for groceries isn't going to gain support among many voters. Instead of spending their time on ideas that will not work the Legislature should be looking at a major reform of how transportation funding issues are handled by the state. Abolishing the Highway Commission should be first on the list of things to do and creating a funding system that sends the money to where the cars are should be second.

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It looks like Arkansas voters may get to vote on a couple of tax increases to pay for a $2.8 billion highway program. The tax increases would be a half cent sales tax that would end in ten years and a increase in the diesel tax of 5 cents per gallon. The sales tax would pay for a $1.8 billion bond program that would result in a 5 year highway construction phase. One of the key aims of the project would be to build a 4 lane highway grid over the state. The diesel tax would more than double the existing tax and raise around $500 million for highway maintenance. It sounds like the governor and Highway Commission both support the plan. The sales tax vote would be on the November, 2012 ballot and the diesel tax vote would be a special election next year. It should be noted that the cost to taxpayers for the $1.8 billion worth of bonds will be much more when interest is figured in.

This sounds like the state government is wasting their time again on a bond program that will not pass and would be a huge waste of taxpayer money. Building a 4 lane grid that covers the entire state is not needed - building roads to areas with declining populations is not going to revive those areas. The economic problems of the Delta region are not because the roads aren't wide enough. Raising the sales tax after all the hoopla about cutting it for groceries isn't going to gain support among many voters. Instead of spending their time on ideas that will not work the Legislature should be looking at a major reform of how transportation funding issues are handled by the state. Abolishing the Highway Commission should be first on the list of things to do and creating a funding system that sends the money to where the cars are should be second.

Yeah, the 4 lane grid thing is foolish. Considering how poor some central Arkansas and NWA roads are (and some arterial roads in south Arkansas), it amazes me when I'll see a brand new 4 lane somewhere else in rural Arkansas that just doesn't seem justifiable. I'll vote for it because I think it's obvious the AHTD needs more funding to get things improved and finished (I-49 would be nice!), but they should drop the 4 lane grid thing, and I don't see the diesel tax being popular. In my opinion though, a grocery tax decrease makes this a little easier since it won't hurt the average person in that aspect (just balances out I guess).

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I'd probably vote against it. Maybe if the grocery tax cut succeeds, and the used car tax cut succeeds, and the capital gains tax cut fails, I'd vote for it. That's a lot of ifs. See no pressing reason to make the tax system more regressive in exchange for four lane roads in depopulating areas of the state. That's a long-term, nationwide, even worldwide phenomenon that won't be reversed with wider roads.

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I'd probably vote against it. Maybe if the grocery tax cut succeeds, and the used car tax cut succeeds, and the capital gains tax cut fails, I'd vote for it. That's a lot of ifs. See no pressing reason to make the tax system more regressive in exchange for four lane roads in depopulating areas of the state. That's a long-term, nationwide, even worldwide phenomenon that won't be reversed with wider roads.

I totally agree with what you're saying, but I'd still vote for it regardless. Our tax burden from the state is already lower than it's been in years due to the first grocery tax cut. The second one will reduce it further. I'm ambivalent about the used car tax cut. My thoughts on this is they need to market it better, and forget the 4 lane road garbage. I doubt most of the people in those rural areas even care about the 4 lane road issue. There are a few arterial roads in the state that aren't 4 lanes I can think of that could use expansion, which may be what they're talking about, but it's not being marketed effectively if that is the case. They need to make a strong case for what they will do with the money, explain the revenue problems facing the system (shouldn't be hard), and how they're going to use this to help fix things longer-term as well, and then I think the public would back it. The argument for the tax is very strong from a financial and infrastructure standpoint if we know they're going to put the money where it needs to go. We'll see how this unfolds, they have some time to work on it.

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I read a good editorial the other week about this road situation. He mentioned how roads are infrastructure but don't really have much direct influence on growth. If it was then many areas of eastern Arkansas wouldn't be losing population the way they are and NWA would have never grown to where it is now. Considering how it's been really under-served by the road situation. I-540 really isn't that old. I realize you can't simply write off eastern Arkansas and do nothing. But this notion that a bunch of four lanes roads will bring back eastern Arkansas is just silly. Pine Bluff has had pretty good road development and it hasn't helped them from losing people at all. Whether you're for this new tax proposal we really need to revamp how we build and maintain our roads. There's way too much control in rural areas of the state when it comes to this. Six counties in Arkansas have a large chunk of Arkansas's population. Three in central Arkansas, two in NWA and one just south of NWA in Ft Smith. I think it's pretty easy to say all six of these counties are under-served by the AHTD. Focus where the people are. I'm not saying you totally ignore the rest of the state outside those six counties. But more emphasis needs to be placed on those six counties. Those six counties probably also contribute more tax revenue than most of the other counties as well.

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I think it is important to note that the areas which currently HAVE the most population are also the exact same areas which are currently gaining population. The only city in the state of any size which is losing population is Pine Bluff, but it's infrastructure is already more than adequate. This SHOULD make it easy to determine highway funding, but because of the ancient four district problem we continue to funnel money into areas losing population.

To be completely honest, I think 5/6th of the counties in the state should get maintenance and repair funds only. The other 1/6th is where all the population is, where all the growth is, and where a substantial percentage of the tax revenue is from. If the state started doing this, they would get substantially better responses on bond projects like this.

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Something I didn't put in my original post is that the aim of the 4 lane grid is to connect all towns over 5,000 population together. This would include a town such as Crossett, which I am sure is a very nice place with good people but it is barely over 5,000 and is rapidly losing population. It is also probably 50 miles from any 4 lane road that would connect it to all others over 5,000. There are many others that are similar and would be very expensive to build a 4 lane connection for. That just isn't a reasonable use of the limited amount of cash that will be available for new road construction.

The Highway Commission and the their 4 district setup may have worked at one time but it doesn't address the needs of the state today. IMO, these tax increases will not pass and after the elections the need for transportation funding will still be there. That will be the time to push for changing the entire funding system and making it work for how the state is now.

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Something I didn't put in my original post is that the aim of the 4 lane grid is to connect all towns over 5,000 population together. This would include a town such as Crossett, which I am sure is a very nice place with good people but it is barely over 5,000 and is rapidly losing population. It is also probably 50 miles from any 4 lane road that would connect it to all others over 5,000. There are many others that are similar and would be very expensive to build a 4 lane connection for. That just isn't a reasonable use of the limited amount of cash that will be available for new road construction.

The Highway Commission and the their 4 district setup may have worked at one time but it doesn't address the needs of the state today. IMO, these tax increases will not pass and after the elections the need for transportation funding will still be there. That will be the time to push for changing the entire funding system and making it work for how the state is now.

Oh, I see. I think I'd heard that at some point but I didn't realize it was still that same silly proposal. The "connecting all towns of over 5,000 population together" with a 4 lane grid is really stupid. Having spent a decent amount of time in the southern and eastern parts of the state lately, there are towns like that/places that need road improvements in the form of resurfacing, etc. but their in most places infrastructure is certainly not overloaded. When a 2 lane US highway between some of those cities is almost empty at any given time of day, how is a 4 lane highway supposed to fix things? There are roads in the state that have been overloaded or needed improvements for years (in some cases decades) that haven't gotten them and should be way up the priority list before building 4 lane roads where 2 is sufficient.

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Yes trying to connect every town with 5,000 with a four lane highway is just plain silly. Once the state got it done it would end up struggling with having money just to maintain the roads we have. Certainly not to build any new ones in the rapidly growing areas that really need it. I remember the big plans of trying to connecting all the cities with a population of 10,000 a while back. Even if they managed to get this done what's next? Building a 4 lane highway grid to all towns with a population of 2,500?

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Well bad news on the transit front. Sounds like ORT is canceling the Dickson St route because of low numbers. I just keep wondering what it's going to take to get people on the buses around here. I admit I think if ORT had some better established routes it would help. I also think a lot of people don't always know about these routes as well. I just really worry what sad state bus transit is going to be in because in the near future it's going to lose a lot of it's federal funding.

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It was a brand-new, very limited route with brief operating hours, underpublicized, unprofessional (collecting charitable donations on buses?!), and described as a demonstration--code for "we'll drop this whenever we feel like". Never had a chance.

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It was a brand-new, very limited route with brief operating hours, underpublicized, unprofessional (collecting charitable donations on buses?!), and described as a demonstration--code for "we'll drop this whenever we feel like". Never had a chance.

That's one of the problems I have with ORT. We need to have some sort of bus service for the area aside from Razorback Transit. But I can't say I've been a big fan of how ORT tends to run things. I almost wonder if we broke up ORT and had several city ran bus systems instead if it would be better. Maybe having the city bus services overlap a little into the next closest city so that you could also still provide some regional transit. Granted that would probably make traveling between cities a bit troublesome. But I've wondered if more people would get behind a bus service they felt that mainly covered just their own city. For Fayetteville they could simply expand on the whole Razorback system and not have to worry about two competing services. I also think that in a number of ways hurts things for the Fayetteville market.

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Many in NWA have been waiting for the 2010 Census. One of the big reasons is so that the metro would officially surpass the 200,000 urban mark. So that the metro could become eligible to become a Federal Transportation Management Area. Not surprisingly we easily passed the 200k mark with 267,000 being listed in the 'urban' part of the metro. In doing so NWA would have more control over funding of road projects in the area. Right now we basically have to mainly rely on the state to get our funds. But it sounds like it could take another year before we officially get that status. But now there's a potential problem. There's talk that now that we've finally reached that mark the government could raise the limit. Now nothing's been set and for right now it's just talk. But apparently some officials have wondered if the limits could end up being pushed up as high as 500,000 or even up to 1 Mil. Effectively pushing NWA back for a very long time. For that matter even central Arkansas might need to be concerned. But even if the limits aren't changed it's also possible the amount of money available for NWA could shrink quite a bit by the time we officially become eligible for the money. But nothing is set and there's a lot up in the air for now. I suppose if there's any silver lining is if the limit is raised perhaps ORT won't lose it's federal funding. Or even worse what if they raise the limit and we don't get our Federal Transportation Management Area status and still lose federal funding for public transportation. Guess we'll just have to wait and see how things play out in the next year.

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Many in NWA have been waiting for the 2010 Census. One of the big reasons is so that the metro would officially surpass the 200,000 urban mark. So that the metro could become eligible to become a Federal Transportation Management Area. Not surprisingly we easily passed the 200k mark with 267,000 being listed in the 'urban' part of the metro. In doing so NWA would have more control over funding of road projects in the area. Right now we basically have to mainly rely on the state to get our funds. But it sounds like it could take another year before we officially get that status. But now there's a potential problem. There's talk that now that we've finally reached that mark the government could raise the limit. Now nothing's been set and for right now it's just talk. But apparently some officials have wondered if the limits could end up being pushed up as high as 500,000 or even up to 1 Mil. Effectively pushing NWA back for a very long time. For that matter even central Arkansas might need to be concerned. But even if the limits aren't changed it's also possible the amount of money available for NWA could shrink quite a bit by the time we officially become eligible for the money. But nothing is set and there's a lot up in the air for now. I suppose if there's any silver lining is if the limit is raised perhaps ORT won't lose it's federal funding. Or even worse what if they raise the limit and we don't get our Federal Transportation Management Area status and still lose federal funding for public transportation. Guess we'll just have to wait and see how things play out in the next year.

It wouldn't surprise me to see the limit raised to 1 million and ORT still lose it's funding the way things are going. I think ORT's best chance is if their .25% tax is passed- it is a very benefical service for a lot of people in NWA and could help even more if it got the funifng.

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Can anyone more familiar with road construction enlighten me as to any recourse the city has vs. contractors when the projects run long?

I ask because Mt. Comfort has been under construction since April '09, with a scheduled completion of Fall 2010. Obviously they've missed that, but there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency to finish up. I know weather plays a factor, but there have been plenty of nice weekends and nights that work could have been going on. Instead, one day of rain or cold weather during the week seems to keep any work from happening.

As a driver, there's nothing I can do, but as a taxpayer, I'm hoping that the city is at least getting a little bit of change back from the construction company the longer this drags on.

Edited by Big Enos

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Check out these "wireless" streetcars in Dallas. They run on batteries, which need a charge every 5 miles or so. I would think something like this would be awesome for Dickson, or College Avenue between the Square and Evelyn Hills. This would eliminate the need for overhead wires, but still have the permanence and coolness of light rail/street car service.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/transportation/20110308-dart-unveils-energy-efficient-streetcar-to-run-on-proposed-downtown-line.ece

STREETCAR001.JPG

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Can anyone more familiar with road construction enlighten me as to any recourse the city has vs. contractors when the projects run long?

I ask because Mt. Comfort has been under construction since April '09, with a scheduled completion of Fall 2010. Obviously they've missed that, but there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency to finish up. I know weather plays a factor, but there have been plenty of nice weekends and nights that work could have been going on. Instead, one day of rain or cold weather during the week seems to keep any work from happening.

As a driver, there's nothing I can do, but as a taxpayer, I'm hoping that the city is at least getting a little bit of change back from the construction company the longer this drags on.

In a lot of cases in the contract there's a clause stating that if work goes over a deadline then the contractors have to pay a fee. But I can't say if that's put into every single contract though.

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Check out these "wireless" streetcars in Dallas. They run on batteries, which need a charge every 5 miles or so. I would think something like this would be awesome for Dickson, or College Avenue between the Square and Evelyn Hills. This would eliminate the need for overhead wires, but still have the permanence and coolness of light rail/street car service.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/transportation/20110308-dart-unveils-energy-efficient-streetcar-to-run-on-proposed-downtown-line.ece

Those are pretty interesting. Although I don't really have that much of a problem with the overhead lines. But then again if we were seriously considering some sort of rail transit in Fayetteville. I could actually see the overhead lines being an issue with some. I wonder how costs run with these compared to a regular set up.

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Can anyone more familiar with road construction enlighten me as to any recourse the city has vs. contractors when the projects run long?

I ask because Mt. Comfort has been under construction since April '09, with a scheduled completion of Fall 2010. Obviously they've missed that, but there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency to finish up. I know weather plays a factor, but there have been plenty of nice weekends and nights that work could have been going on. Instead, one day of rain or cold weather during the week seems to keep any work from happening.

As a driver, there's nothing I can do, but as a taxpayer, I'm hoping that the city is at least getting a little bit of change back from the construction company the longer this drags on.

Good grief, I know. On the cone patrol section of the Access Fayetteville website (link below) the city mentions Sweetser Construction specifically. Almost sounds like they are trying to deflect some criticism. Also says that whoever is planning on laying that last layer of asphalt is waiting for warmer weather. How they were supposed to finish it at the end of November, who knows.

http://www.accessfayetteville.org/government/projects/cone_patrol/index.cfm

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