Two structures at North P Street and Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith are to be demolished as part of nearly $10 million Fort Smith Utilities sewer line improvement project that eventually will be a multi-use trail connecting Creekmore Park and the Arkansas River via Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

According to the latest Fort Smith Building Safety permits report, the structures at 1701 and 1702 Midland Boulevard across from Americold Logistics are permitted for demolition.

Michelle Dodroe, deputy director of Utility Engineering with the Utilities Department, said the line would increase capacity to the P Street Wastewater Treatment Plant. Work began on the line in early May and is expected take 18 months. Following the Utilities Department's work, the Fort Smith Parks & Recreation will lay a 10-foot-wide hard surface trail over much of the line by 2024.

“We’ve upgraded the plant, and now we’re upgrading the pipe to get it there,” Dodroe explained of the P002-P003 Sub-basic Sewer Capacity Improvement Project.

A 1,167-foot portion of the sewer line that will run from the wastewater treatment plant to the former location of Odom’s Furniture is 60 inches in diameter and will be about 25 feet deep. According to Lance McAvoy, deputy director of operations for the Utilities Department, the remainder of the line to MLK Park will be made up of 2,420 feet of 48-inch line, 512 feet of 42-inch line and 83 feet of 36-inch line.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved resolutions in April to accept the $9.89 million bid by KAJACS Contractors Inc. for the sewer line work and $642,300 to Hawkins-Weir Engineers for construction services.

As noted in a March Times Record article, the P Street extension is being done before an extension of the Old Railroad Trail because of the sub-basin utility work. The Old Railroad Trail, which currently has a price tag of about $2.5 million, will be the first city trail in Fort Smith to carve a path through the middle of town and serve as much as an alternative transportation route as a recreation trail. Doug Reinert, Parks & Recreation director, acknowledged that while the trail construction will take longer because of the initial sewer line work, "we’re saving each other taxpayer dollars" and "we’re achieving two goals at the same time.” 

The 2.9-mile paved trail will connect Creekmore Park and the Fort Smith Public Library to Martin Luther King Jr. Park and the Greg Smith River Trail, along with the U.S. Marshals Museum and the Riverfront Skate Park.

The Old Railroad Trail, also known as May Branch Trail, may have been completed sooner as part of the Fort Smith Master Trails Plan. But an unexpected loss of government funding for a Fort Smith Utilities Department drainage project shifted focus toward the P Street sewer project that is on the western edge of plans for the Old Railroad Trail.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors will get the design proposals Tuesday from the Utilities Department on another section of sewer line improvements labeled Basin 10 and 14, which stretch from MLK Park to the Fort Smith Public Library.