Tuesday, May 27, 2008

College Avenue Improvement Project

Eight years ago. Eight years ago, Dan Coody was running for Mayor. He stood in a parking lot on College Avenue, remarked on the power lines and curb cuts, and called the street "dangerous and ugly." If elected, he promised a beautification plan that included new sidewalks, bike paths, and convenient stops for public transportation, with trees all along the avenue and draping over traffic for seven miles from Drake Field to the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

Coody, who at the time had only two years experience in city government and none on the Street Committee, said
he would look to federal and state grants and private donations to fund the project. He didn't know how much it would cost, and he didn't know then that mayors who would be good managers have to figure inflation costs to avoid multi-million dollar cost over runs on public works projects.

At the time, everyone said it would cost too much to even bury the utility lines along College. Coody found that to be true when SWEPCO undermined the entire Dickson Street improvement project by installing those huge, ugly utility poles through the heart of the entertainment district and historic neighborhoods. There was nothing he could do about it. The city didn't have the money to bury the lines there, nor on College Avenue.

Dan Coody did have a vision for College Avenue, and a majority of voters in 2000 trusted him. Today, eight years later, work finally begins on College Avenue,
replacing the curbs and sidewalks and adding street trees and new lighting along seven blocks from Rock Street to Maple Street. It is part of the Street Bond Program passed by the voters in the 2006 sales tax bond election, after all of those imagined grants and private donations to make improvements didn't happen..

Mayor Coody will have a public ceremony to celebrate his accomplishment next month after he returns from vacation. It is not the grand seven-mile vision he offered voters in 2000, but seven blocks is an improvement. It should be finished in about six months, just before Coody leaves office. I'll be glad when it is done.

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