Thousands of Northwest Arkansas residents who responded to a survey about the region’s infrastructure gave their highest priority to protecting the quality of the region’s lakes and streams.
The more than 4,000 respondents also gave importance to building more highways and increasing the region’s recycling while reducing waste.
The Northwest Arkansas Council conducted the survey from Feb. 15 to March 25 to inform the work of its Infrastructure Work Group, which was re-established earlier this year.
The work group will focus on helping local governments and businesses tap into federal money made available thanks to last year’s passage of the more than $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The group will be used as a venue to coordinate and assist with federal grant requests from across Benton and Washington counties.
Historically, the Northwest Arkansas Council has focused its work on water quality and quantity, highway construction, public transportation and supporting the work of Northwest Arkansas National Airport administrators. Because there’s so much federal funding available in new areas, the group will give attention to identifying and pursuing grants for such things as electric vehicle charging stations, broadband expansion and recycling.
“The region’s rapid growth makes it critical for the Council to work to ensure that we’re doing everything possible as we pursue federal grants,” said Nelson Peacock, the Council’s president and CEO. “The survey confirmed many things we believed to be true but also provided some surprising insights.”
“One of the water-related responses came as a surprise,” Peacock said. The survey asked people if they’d pay more for drinking water if they knew the additional funding would go toward the long-term protection of the region’s rivers and lakes. In all, 65% of the 3,931 residents who answered the question said they would pay more.
Other findings from the survey:
- Four out of five respondents (78%) expressed a willingness to take actions to recycle more, waste less and learn about their local recycling program.
- When it comes to their local recycling program, 61% of survey participants indicated knowing what their city’s recycling program accepts is confusing.
- Most respondents (80%) said they believe the region will need more public transportation/buses in the future, but far fewer (48%) see themselves as riders if the system becomes more convenient.
- Broadband services should be available to everyone, including people who live far from cities (83%).
- Four out of every five respondents (81%) see themselves as eventually owning an electric vehicle.
- Majorities of respondents want the Northwest Arkansas Council to continue focusing on highway expansions in the region (74%) and on expanding the region’s network of electric vehicle charging stations (68%).