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story.lead_photo.caption Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - 10-13-2015 - Artist rendering of the Interstate 30 interchange serving downtown Little Rock as it would look after a proposed widening of the interstate through the downtown area..

Little Rock city directors are divided on whether to adopt a resolution directing the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to consider alternatives to a proposed Interstate 30 lane expansion project.

City Director Kathy Webb moved Tuesday for a resolution she drafted to be added to next week's Board of Directors agenda for a vote. It calls for the Highway Department to consider Metroplan's Imagine Central Arkansas Plan, to invest in other public transportation such as light rails and street cars, and to evaluate alternative options used in other cities.

The resolution would have no direct impact on the Highway Department, because the department doesn't answer to the city, but it would make the city's stance known.

The resolution says, "favoring one mode of travel at the expense of all others tends to make communities less competitive, less resilient, and more dependent on larger future government subsidies, while degrading quality of life, and limiting citizens' choice."

Vice Mayor and City Director Lance Hines said he won't be voting in favor of the document.

"This seems like a very one-sided resolution to me. I think the Highway Department could come in and refute every one of these points with facts and figures," Hines said.

Both he and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola also said it might be premature to present any resolution, because the Highway Department has a public meeting on the project planned for 6 p.m. Monday at the Clinton Presidential Center.

"I think there'll be more information, more visualization on this on Monday," Stodola said.

The work proposed under the I-30 project include replacing the 50-year-old bridge over the Arkansas River and widening the interstate up to five lanes in each direction on part of a 6.7-mile corridor through Little Rock and North Little Rock. Another option includes four lanes in each direction. The crossing over the Arkansas River right now has three lanes in each direction.

Webb's resolution states that expanding road capacity "as a response to congestion tends to increase congestion and shift it elsewhere in the system." It also says other communities have replaced urban freeways "with more responsive infrastructure."

Highway Department officials told city leaders at a public meeting last week that public input has continued to alter the plans for the I-30 lane expansion, which has been estimated to cost $600 million.

At that meeting, city leaders wanted engineers to look at steering traffic away from accessing LaHarpe Boulevard via Cumberland Avenue and its intersection with East Markham Street/President Clinton Avenue when entering and exiting the interstate in downtown Little Rock. They cited the high volume of pedestrians at the intersection, which is within the city's popular River Market District.

Garver LLC engineers is working on the $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program of which the I-30 corridor project is a part. The company told the city board that new options would be put forward as soon as January to address how traffic gets into and out of downtown Little Rock.

One option it unveiled last month would close LaHarpe at Cumberland and Markham/President Clinton and would steer traffic exiting and entering I-30 onto Second and Fourth streets instead.

Even with the proposed changes to the plan, Webb told fellow board members Tuesday it was important for city leaders to voice their opinions on the highly debated project.

"I was really struck by all the thought that people put into their remarks at the meeting last week," she said. "One of the people who talked spoke about how this is one thing that's going to be in place for decades to come, and for people who are going to be crossing this bridge and working and playing in this area long after we're gone, and for us to really think about the vision we have for not only next year, but the next 50 years."

Webb's resolution is scheduled for a vote at Tuesday's 6 p.m. city board meeting in the second-floor boardroom at City Hall, 500 W. Markham St.

Information for this article was contributed by Noel Oman of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 11/12/2015

Print Headline: LR directors disagree on I-30 project stance

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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    November 12, 2015 at 4:57 a.m.

    While I understand Webb's points regarding considering transportation alternatives, I find it more talk without action. With Rock Region Metro preparing to ask for a quarter cent sales tax increase to improve transit options, I would expect her to note that and draw attention to the fact LR doesn't even have a downtown transportation plan. Metroplan's Imagine Central Arkansas plan is for the region, not the details of downtown.
    ...
    Bring real points to the table, not rhetoric, if you're going to be taken seriously. Webb does make a good point that transportation entities in central Arkansas aren't really working together as much as people would prefer. There needs to be more coordination of efforts to improve transportation and also maximize limited funds.

  • drs01
    November 12, 2015 at 10:04 a.m.

    Any mention of Metroplan is a deal breaker for me. This is the same Metroplan that in 2011 wanted to expand the yellow tourist trolley taking it the the airport; and when that plan fell thru they sanctioned another study that would take the trolleys to Roosevelt Road and Park Hill on a north-south expansion st a cost of over $100 Million. We spent over $20 million on this project and countless thousands more each year to maintain it. Now the former CATA wants a sales tax increase? Only when the Tourist Bureau starts paying for the trolley system!!
    Metroplan has been lax in focusing on the real needs of central Arkansas. Commuter traffic isn't going away anytime soon as long as the perception is that LR-NLR is a good place to work....but get out before the sun goes down to a better life, with better schools, and less crime in the surrounding cities. That perception has built some small towns into mini-metropolises. More roads won't fix that, but better schools might.
    As to other forms of "transportation", we've gone too far with the car to be able to afford anything other than bikes and horses. Bring back the buggy whip factories!!!

  • CarpeNoctis
    November 12, 2015 at 3:03 p.m.

    The Board, et al, can keep lauding other cities in their DT plans and changes made there, but Metro Plan screwed up years ago with the sprawl that currently exists. There are very few major arteries running West to East LR, I count 4 streets + 1 interstate - if there were more, sure, we could make the entire DT area walking but it would require an entire revamp of the LR area. Another thing about CAT ( I Refuse to call it by its new name) is when they had nighttime service it made tons of money but one LR city director didn't like the idea of people running around the city after 10 p.m. and his one vote pulled the entire financially gainful CATA routes after 10 p.m. Who's to say one LR director gets a burr up his/her butt and recalls all the plans made and gets their and their friends (as always, follow the money) plan on board? It's this constant changing, no planning of anything to the final degree, willy-nilly, wishy-washy planning of an appointed Board making all these decisions and NOW LR directors want to whine. Nope, sorry, y'all have to live with these major indecisions like the rest of us.

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