Maumelle special election stirs debate

Counts Massie Dead End. Proposed to be extended near I-40

MAUMELLE (KATV) - If you have ever driven down Maumelle Boulevard during peak traffic hours, you know how congested and frustrating it can be. The city has been looking for solutions for decades and they're taking their proposal to the voters. The special election is Tuesday, October 9th. To see a sample copy of the ballot, click here.

Counts Massie is the road getting all the attention. It connects to Maumelle Boulevard and from where it dead ends, it is about a mile from I-40. The proposal is to widen the narrow road and extend what is now a dead end, to a former rest stop close to I-40.

It's been in talks for more than a decade and Tuesday, Maumelle residents will vote on whether or not to extend Counts Massie near I-40.

Mayor Mike Watson says, "That will alleviate some of the traffic on Maumelle Boulevard. That is the plan and so if we do the Counts Massie extension we hope that will help convince the Highway Department that we need the interchange located at 40 located at the old rest area." He continues, "So any traffic we can take off Maumelle Boulevard benefits everyone that drives down Maumelle Boulevard."

Mayor Watson stresses this is not a tax hike. Rather instead of letting the current bond expire this year, residents will continue paying the current mileage on their property taxes for another seven years.

Steve Mosley says, "It is a special election and probably two out of three people I see on the street and my neighbors are not aware of the election. It is something we advocated to have in the general election."

Steve Mosley is a member of the community group, Maumelle Residents Coalition. Members are not against the Counts Massie extension, but against doing it before an interchange is approved by the Highway Department to connect the road to I-40. He says the proposal will be a $9.5 million dollar nightmare, "We're already bumper to bumper during rush hour and we are afraid if we build this now instead of waiting until the interchange, it will cause a problem."

Mayor Watson adds, "It's going to probably take two years to build it. It's going to take a little bit of time to design it. Hopefully by then we will be working on the interchange also at that time."

Members of the Maumelle Residents Coalition are concerned because the landowner can zone for apartments on Counts Massie before an interchange is added. Mosley explains, "It will generate thousands of additional cars going south to Maumelle Boulevard and create a monumental traffic situation. We need the I-40 interchange to drain the traffic." Mayor Watson says apartments come with the market condition not necessarily a roadway.

Highway Department on interchange: The extension would be city funded. An interchange to I-40 would be federally funded and have to be approved by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. An AHTD spokesperson told Channel Seven the interchange isn't on their agenda, but if Maumelle did not extend the road they would never consider creating an interchange to nowhere.

There are two other projects on the ballot: One is to resurface and widen Crystal Hill in the Maumelle City limits from 16 feet to 48 feet. Mayor Watson says it is for safety reasons because so many drivers are using it to bypass the Boulevard.

The other item on the ballot is a new fire station.

For more details on the other items on the ballot, click here.