The Southwest Trail
How would you like to hop on your bike and ride to Hot Springs for the weekend? ALTA Planning, the same agency that planned the Razorback Greenway, has created a planning document, the Southwest Trail Corridor and Economic Impact Study, proposing a trail route to do just that. This trail has the potential to increase tourism, create revenue, and increase public health and livability. It also has the potential to be a safe and comfortable bicycle and pedestrian transportation corridor in Little Rock.
Figure 1. Members of the Southwest Trail Task Force hike part of the proposed Southwest Trail route from Geyer Springs to Shannon Hills in January 2017.
A lot of people in Garland, Saline, and Pulaski counties are working hard to see this trail completed. Metroplan has been coordinating the Southwest Trail Task Force to bring together stakeholders and coordinate their efforts (Figs. 1 & 2). The Southwest Trail Facebook page has been educating the public at large about the project. A new 501c3, the Friends of the Southwest Trail, has been created to raise funds for the trail's completion. In June 2017, Garland, Saline, and Pulaski Counties were together awarded a Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) award to design and engineer the Southwest Trail from Hot Springs to Central High in Little Rock.
Figure 2. Members of the Southwest Trail Task Force hike part of the proposed Southwest Trail route from 65th St., through Fourche Bottoms, to the Arkansas Fairgrounds in January 2018.
The City of Little Rock is working to complete our section of this trail as well (Fig. 3). In August 2016, we completed a more detailed corridor study of the proposed ALTA Planning route from the Arkansas River Trail to Interstate Park. In November 2016, we applied for funding through the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) to build the Southwest Trail from the Arkansas River Trail at the Union Pacific tracks to Central High School (what we dubbed the "Central High Corridor"). In preparation for that funding, we completed an even more detailed analysis of that corridor and its challenges. On June 15, 2017, we were awarded the full amount requested for Phase One of a three phase project to build the Central High Corridor from the Arkansas River Trail to Central High.
Figure 3. Mayor Stodola, former Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas (BACA) President Mason Ellis, and I walk the proposed route of the Southwest Trail from the Arkansas River Trail to Interstate Park.
As we begin the administration of Phase One of the FLAP (Fig. 4), we are working to obtain easements for Phase Two. This will build the trail from the Arkansas River Trail to the Capital Mall. We have proposed a solution to Union Pacific for the Southwest Trail route in the area they have been most concerned with since 2008 and are awaiting their response (Fig. 5).
Figure 4. The majority of the Phase One funds will be spent stabilizing the Arkansas River bank (approximately where the trail is gray) that is falling into the river. The remaining funds will be used to create a ramp from the Medical Mile to the bridge currently being constructed over the Union Pacific tracks (pink). The green section is Phase Two. See also our application and supporting materials. Figure by Leland Couch.
Figure 5. This is the proposed LaHarpe Undercrossing, addressing all of Union Pacific's safety concerns expressed in 2008 (see also). Figure by Leland Couch.
The completion of the Southwest Trail is far from guaranteed. Within the City of Little Rock, we are having challenges obtaining the necessary easements even between the Arkansas River Trail and Central High. Of course funding is also a challenge. If you have any comments, concerns, or suggestions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to learn how you can be more involved, contact Friends of the Southwest Trail.