The equipment is in place and the preliminary work is finally out of the way on an $87.3 million project to widen a section of Interstate 630.
The construction is certain to disrupt a major route between downtown Little Rock and points west for 100,000 motorists every day.
The real labor on the 18-month effort is scheduled to begin Monday night, weather permitting, when workers start installing barrier walls separating the construction from traffic.
Traffic will be limited to one lane in both directions between Baptist Health Medical Center and South University Avenue overnight through Friday, the Arkansas Department of Transportation said.
Closing the eastbound and westbound center and outside lanes within the work zone from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. also will allow crews to place pavement markings, build safety platforms at the Hughes Street overpass and remove pavement ridges and grooves in the shoulders.
One lane of traffic in each direction will remain open during the overnight hours, and interstate ramps will remain accessible except the westbound on-ramp from the old Sears parking lot, the department said.
During the daytime peak travel hours, all six lanes on I-630 will be open to traffic. But within the construction zone, speeds will be limited to 50 mph. The speed limit on the rest of I-630 will remain 60 mph.
"If people leave early and drive the speed limit through the work zone, there shouldn't be any problem," said Steve Straessle, the department spokesman.
The traffic disruption will worsen once schools reopen for the fall term in August.
"People will have to plan their commutes," said Straessle, who noted the city contains other east-west route options including West Markham Street and West 12th Street/Kanis Road.
Neighborhoods adjacent to the interstate will hear construction noise during nighttime hours, the department said.
"That's going to be a lot of fun," said Mary-Julia Hill, president of the Briarwood Area Neighborhood Association.
The residents of the neighborhood on the north side of the interstate have complained for years about the noise from the interstate. The project includes the installation of sound barriers. A residential area on the south side of I-630 voted against having sound barriers installed.
"Our whole issue on 630 in general for the past 40 years has been the noise," Hill said. "This is not going to go over well.
"It's going to be great for traffic, but we need to sleep and go to work, too."
Most of the work will take place at night to avoid disrupting traffic, the department said.
Nightly lane closures will occur throughout the span of the construction from Sunday night through Saturday morning, between 8 a.m. and 6 a.m. and from 8 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays.
To aid motorists, traffic cameras have been installed along the project and can be viewed by drivers at IDriveArkansas.com before they head out. A website on ConnectingArkansasProgram.com also will include lane closings, construction schedules, upcoming work and other information about the project.
Beginning Friday night, the Hughes Street overpass will close for about three months as crews remove the overpass and build a new one. Detours will direct Hughes Street traffic to Mississippi Avenue to bypass the closure.
The project will widen the 2.5-mile section of I-630 to eight lanes from six and replace interstate bridges at South Rodney Parham Road and Rock Creek.
The work is part of the department's $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program, a road construction schedule focusing on regionally significant projects. The program is funded, in part, though a statewide half-percent sales tax voters approved in 2012. The tax will expire in 2023.
The department said the project is an extension of the work for three projects worth $124 million completed three years ago to improve the Interstate 630/Interstate 430 interchange. Projections show that traffic on the section of I-630 being widened will reach 140,000 vehicles daily in 20 years.
Metro on 07/15/2018