Roundabout construction hurts local businesses

Construction workers drive equipment down Chestnut street toward Main street at Feb. 28 in downtown Conway. Parts of Van Ronkle and Chestnut streets are closed for an indefinite amount of time, according to the City of Conway Transportation Department.

photo by Chirstine Nichols

Conway’s newest miniature traffic circle’s construction is lowering sales for businesses nearby.

The City of Conway began the process of constructing its 27th roundabout at the intersection of Chestnut, Van Ronkle and Markham streets in downtown Conway in February.

In the past few years, Conway has built numerous traffic circles.

“Roundabouts are safer than traffic signals,” director and engineer for the City of Conway Transportation Department Finley Venson said.

This may be why Conway has built so many in recent years. Roundabouts are safer and quicker, but the construction needed to build them can negatively impact nearby businesses.

Before the construction of the roundabout at Chestnut, Van Ronkle and Markham, this intersection was a four-way stop.

Due to the construction, the road is currently gravel, making it difficult for cars to drive past each other at this location.

Some of the businesses impacted by the construction include Sporty Runner, Central Arkansas Trophies and the Stitcher’s Garden.

The construction makes it more difficult for customers to get to these businesses.

“It has definitely led to a decrease in traffic,” Sporty Runner manager Don Starr said.

Less people are coming into the store, which leads to less revenue.

However, the construction is not lowering the traffic to all the businesses near the construction. The store Stitcher’s Garden, which sells crochet supplies, has had minimal impact due to the construction.

“We’re a destination shop,” Stitcher’s Garden employee Timsey Everett said.

Everett said if people want to crochet, then the construction will not stop them from coming to the store.

“We do have a lot of people who complain,” Everett said.

Many of their customers are older, they have to walk around police tape to get to the shop and they are unable to park in handicapped parking close to the store.

Parking is also an issue for the employees at these businesses. They have to park far away from their businesses each day.

Starr said the timeline for when the construction will be finished is up in the air.

“One of the things that impacted the timeline is the discovery of the culvert that runs under the street and under buildings here on Van Ronkle street,” Starr said.

According to Cambridge English Dictionary, a culvert is “a pipe for waste water that crosses under roads.”

Starr said when the city inspected the culvert, it discovered some of the supports had collapsed. The city is having to revise its construction plans to deal with the repair of the culvert that sits underneath these buildings.

“Once all the construction and everything is complete, it will be very nice,” Starr said.

Starr said the street-scaping will match what has already been done to other parts of downtown.

The businesses were aware that this construction would occur before it started. The plan has been ongoing since June 2018.

The roundabout is not the only area undergoing construction. Starr said the City of Conway is also rebuilding Chestnut and Van Ronkle streets.


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