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story.lead_photo.caption A map showing the Single-point urban interchange alternative for Cantrell Road - Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / SOURCE: Arkansas Department of Transportation

The Arkansas Department of Transportation has chosen a single-point urban interchange to improve traffic flow on a congested section of Cantrell Road in west Little Rock.

Under the design, Cantrell Road would be widened to six lanes between Pleasant Valley and Pleasant Ridge roads. Its intersection with North Rodney Parham Road would be eliminated by having Cantrell traffic go over the intersection rather than through it.

The feature is similar to the ramp that carries traffic on Interstate 630 over South Shackleford Road near the Interstate 430/Interstate 630 interchange.

The design is the preferred alternative to a continuous-flow interchange, which was the other option the agency considered, because the department concluded it would handle traffic better, said Danny Straessle, a department spokesman.

"It has a more efficient movement of traffic," he said.

The announcement last week of a preferred alternative capped five years of study to improve traffic flow on that section of Cantrell, also called Arkansas 10, in response to surging traffic and increased development in the corridor, and came after the proposed alternatives attracted more than 100 written comments from a public meeting held in March.

Up to 54,000 vehicles travel every day on Cantrell between Pleasant Valley and Pleasant Ridge roads, making it the busiest arterial, or noninterstate roadway, in Arkansas. A study of the corridor projects 76,000 vehicles per day will use the corridor in 20 years.

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Among those submitting comments were Lou Schickel of Schickel Development, which developed the Pleasant Ridge Town Center, a major shopping complex on Cantrell near I-430.

"The single point urban interchange alternative appears to be superior to the continuous flow intersection alternative," he said.

The department has been considering the continuous-flow design for the interchange since 2003 when a department study evaluated its use at five intersections in Arkansas, including Cantrell-North Rodney Parham.

That design would have removed left turns from the main intersection. For westbound traffic on Cantrell, that would mean motorists turning left onto Rodney Parham would make that turn several hundred feet before the intersection. That traffic, controlled by a light, would move into a segregated lane on the south side of Cantrell to another light at Rodney Parham, where the turn would be executed.

[MAP: Department of Transportation's Highway 10 preferred alternative]

The "single point" in preferred design would be underneath Cantrell at North Rodney Parham. One traffic light would help control traffic coming onto or off Cantrell, which would allow motorists going east and west on Cantrell to not have to stop at a light to accommodate North Rodney Parham traffic as is done now, which leads to much of the congestion in the corridor.

Hugh and Amy Pollard, who live off River Mountain Road, which is on the north side of Cantrell and west of I-430, said that while the department's preferred alternative is "safer" for people who use the River Mountain Road to access Two Rivers Park and the Arkansas River Trail, they expressed worry it would encourage "commercial or multi-family development" and destroy the "natural beauty" of the entrance to the park.

They are particularly concerned about the construction of a traffic circle north of Cantrell that would handle low-volume traffic using Walton Heights neighborhood, River Mountain Road and a bank and church facing Cantrell.

The department plans to hold another public meeting to invite comment on the preferred alternative. It is scheduled to take place some time next year, but not before the agency hires a contractor to help design the project, invoking for the first time a new law that allows an alternate procurement method for highway projects.

Act 809 of 2017 allows the agency to select a pilot project for the construction manager/general contractor method to procure highway projects.

Typically, highway projects are designed and contractors are invited to submit bids. The lowest bidder is awarded a contract to build the project based on the design.

Under Act 809, the department will solicit requests for proposals from contractors to work with the department to design the project.

Enlisting a contractor before the project is fully designed helps "manage the risk" of project design, especially on projects as complicated as the Cantrell Road project, Straessle said.

"A contractor's perspective on what can be done and what can't be done" can be incorporated early in the design, he said.

The contractor that is selected also will have the "first shot" at bidding for the job, Straessle said.

Under the method, the contractor will independently come up with project costs when it is 30 percent designed, 60 percent designed and 90 percent designed, he said. The department also will develop its project costs at those stages as well as enlist an independent estimator to also submit costs for the three stages.

If the contractor's costs are within 10 percent of the independent estimator's, the contractor will be awarded the project. If the contractor's costs exceed 10 percent, the contractor can resubmit another bid or the project can be built using the traditional low-bid method, Straessle said.

The department has allotted $58.3 million to spend on the project in 2019, according to the agency's 2016-2020 statewide transportation improvement program, which lists the projects on which the department plans to advance. The money includes $46.64 million in federal funds and $11.66 million in state funds.

But Straessle said 2019 is "not set in stone" and the project might be awarded later rather than sooner.

Work to improve the interchange already has begun with the awarding of a $22.9 million contract to build a ramp from westbound Cantrell to I-430 north.

The project will eliminate the left-hand turn against eastbound traffic that westbound traffic now requires to access I-430 north. The project also provides for the installation of a traffic signal at Cantrell and Pleasant Valley Road.

Metro on 09/25/2017

Print Headline: Cantrell, Parham junction selected


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  • NoUserName
    September 25, 2017 at 6:32 a.m.

    This will be a disaster much like the 630/430 mess. It isn't the light at Rodney Parham and Cantrell. It's the 4 lights in quick succession. The commercial overbuilding without taking into account traffic. All you really need to widen Cantrell. Oh, and this ADDS a light right before the flyover which, of course, is the city MO. And that shiny new on ramp? It's the 430 backup that usually causes the problems. Now you're dumping traffic from BOTH sides onto 430. Disaster...

  • RBBrittain
    September 25, 2017 at 8:51 a.m.

    Funny, NoUserName, that you acknowledge the biggest single problem on this section of Cantrell -- the 4 lights in a row -- yet you immediately IGNORE that fact and claim just widening Cantrell will fix everything. ArDOT's proposal will eliminate two of those lights -- Rodney Parham with the SPUI *plus* Southridge (the one opposite the shopping center) by rerouting the street to the roundabout just north of Rodney Parham -- and could still eliminate a third by redesigning access to the shopping center, *PLUS* it widens Cantrell. It does add a light between Rodney Parham & I-430, but that's to accommodate traffic now using the SB-to-EB loop ramp that's being eliminated to remove a conflict with the EB-to-NB loop ramp (which won't be affected by the new light); that light shouldn't block traffic as much as the existing lights do. And that shiny new on ramp? It eliminates the left turns across Cantrell that causes backups on BOTH sides, and allows for SEPARATE merges onto I-430 for WB & EB traffic to reduce the effect of those inevitable 430 backups on Cantrell. I don't have a civil engineering degree, but I get what Scott Bennett is doing here. Where did you get YOUR engineering degree?

  • RBBrittain
    September 25, 2017 at 9:03 a.m.

    Also, I think the article misconstrues the benefit of a SPUI (single point urban interchange). Eliminating the light on Cantrell is the benefit of using a freeway-style interchange in general, as opposed to the previously proposed "continuous flow interchange" (which would NOT have eliminated the light, and actually would have added MORE lights; it would have improved traffic coordination, but not as much as the SPUI). The point of using a SPUI is to minimize lights on Rodney Parham; all the left turns will go thru the "single point" light on Rodney Parham underneath the Cantrell overpass (NoUserName mislabeled it a "flyover"), which should increase traffic flow for all other traffic there.

  • reader12345
    September 25, 2017 at 9:13 a.m.

    So if you're going south on 430 and want to go east toward downtown, how will you do that? It looks like they're eliminating that ramp. I'm sure there's an answer but I don't see it.

  • RBBrittain
    September 25, 2017 at 9:24 a.m.

    @reader12345: I went to ArDOT's own map in part to answer that very question. In the initial design, that traffic will proceed west from the existing WB Cantrell exit on a ramp parallel to Cantrell; at Rodney Parham, it will loop under Cantrell (an unusual "Texas turnaround" within a SPUI) and merge with traffic from Rodney Parham going to EB Cantrell. The separate left-turn lane from the WB Cantrell ramp onto EB Cantrell (the one NoUserName complains will add a light) is now listed as "future construction"; perhaps they'll see how the "Texas turnaround" / SPUI combo works first.

  • RBBrittain
    September 25, 2017 at 9:29 a.m.

    One clarification I need to make: Though Southridge will be rerouted to the roundabout, per ArDOT's map that will NOT eliminate the Southridge light; instead, the separate light for the shopping center will be merged with the Southridge light. (A variant on undoing the NIMBY move Walton Heights folks pulled some years ago by blocking the city from connecting Southridge & Pleasant Ridge at one light, one of the biggest contributors to the present "4 lights in a row" mess we have now.)

  • reader12345
    September 25, 2017 at 9:44 a.m.

    RBBrittain, so you'll have to go west and do a u-turn? Yuck, that won't be any fun for people who commute to downtown from Maumelle or points north of there.

  • LR1955
    September 25, 2017 at 10:17 a.m.

    All options suck

  • NoUserName
    September 25, 2017 at 10:18 a.m.

    "ArDOT's proposal will eliminate two of those lights"
    And add one at Pleasant Valley BEFORE the flyover which will mean little difference in traffic patterns. LR doesn't know how to do light timing.
    "And that shiny new on ramp? It eliminates the left turns across Cantrell that causes backups on BOTH sides"
    No, it doesn't. Most of the time that backup is due to the 430 backup. You will STILL have that backup on Cantrell. Mark my words.
    "Where did you get YOUR engineering degree?"
    Hopefully not where the LR engineers got theirs. Can you drive around LR and think these guys have any clue what they are doing? As for misnaming it a flyover, it was ArDOT that specifically pointed to 430/630 as the model.

  • abb
    September 25, 2017 at 11:13 a.m.

    I had a client come to Little Rock, thinking of moving his company here. Stayed several days. He loved the people, food, 4 seasons, and West Little Rock homes. However, he is choosing another city. He absolutely hated our education, crime, and especially I 630 going down to 3 lanes from 7! He asked if the designer was flogged in public?!