It was standing room only in the courtroom of Mayflower City Hall Thursday night as community members gathered to hear about possible improvements to Highway 89 between Conway and Cabot.

The interest meeting was hosted by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) and Metroplan and was led by Jeff Pierce, an engineer with Garver.

Pierce said the study was done to determine the need and possibility of a continuous route following the existing Highway 89 and connecting I-40 with US 67 near Cabot or Jacksonville and a possible connection from I-40 west to Highway 60, or Dave Ward Drive.

According to Pierce, the study included goals:

To improve safety with straighter roads and wider lanes.

To improve travel time with increased average speed limits.

To provide alternative improvements for freight travel.

To support the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) Mission.

To modify proposed routes to maintain LRAFB flying operations.

To minimize right-of-way acquisition.

To minimize environmental impacts.

To allow for bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Pierce said they’ve been working on this project for about a year and have found that traffic volumes do not support a continuous four-lane route and felt that money would be better used correcting spots along the way, the “real problem areas.”

He said several immediate needs were determined, recommending that the area between Highway 5 to Highway 67, a real need due to congestion with traffic and the number of wrecks, be upgraded to a four-lane section immediately — project estimated at $21.1 million.

In addition he said, they recommend putting up signage along Republican Road to direct people to the LRAFB and widening I-40 to Clinton Road to three lanes in 15 to 20 years — project estimated at $43.3 million — and adding shoulders, alignment and intersection upgrades to all the roads as part of the safety improvements.

He said the next step is for Garver to submit the recommendations to the ArDOT.