MAUMELLE, Ark. – Neighbors along one Maumelle street are hitting the brakes after delayed road construction leaves them driving home on torn-up asphalt.
The stretch of roadwork along Crystal Hill Road has reduced the riverside route to a one-way street, removing power lines and streetlights while crews work to lay down a new foundation.
Neighbors living along the roadway say construction kicked off last fall, more than a decade after the funds for the project were initially raised by an approved Maumelle bond issue. The project hopes to expand the roadway and add a pedestrian and bike path. It was supposed to be completed by September of 2021.
But nearly three months later, construction is still in the demolition phase.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” remarked Jayne Bathke, a neighbor who lives along the route. The ditches and drop-offs created by slow construction are so severe, she’s nicknamed the mud puddle at the entrance to her subdivision “Lake Maumelle”.
But that isn’t the only nickname for the work. “It’s been called the goat trail,” explained Janet Watkins, who lives on Crystal Hill and must brave the rough terrain to get to and from her house.
It’s a challenge she’s faced for months, and an issue she says has impacted everything from how neighbors get their mail (mailboxes had to be moved off the roadway and Watkins says packages are usually thrown in the grass) to worries over emergency responders.
“Ambulance services, things like that,” Bathke said, “that’s of great concern to us.”
Maumelle mayor Caleb Norris says he’s heard the concerns of neighbors, and regularly drives the route to check on progress. When asked about the delays, he explained that disputes over Entergy powerlines lining the roadway and who would be responsible for their removal paused crews for some time.
“That stopped construction in that area for several months,” Norris said.
In addition, he said labor and material shortages facing the construction industry as a whole are adding to the delay, with smaller crews working with fewer options on a daily basis.
“My understanding is they’re trying to pace the demolition elements on par with material supplies,” he explained, which is why work has slowed. As for the rough roadway, Norris says with a public push to move the project along, organizers felt taking additional time to lay temporary asphalt wasn’t the best option.
For Watkins, she just wants to be able to drive on her normal road again, saying, “come out here with a bunch of tractors and a bunch of men and get this thing finished.”
According to Norris, the contractor has said a possible completion date might now come sometime mid-spring, although that date could change depending on supply and labor.