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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - An Interstate 30 sign is shown in this 2019 file photo. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

Neighborhood groups challenging the $631.7 million Interstate 30 project through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock dropped their demand for an immediate halt to the undertaking after the defendants convinced them construction wasn't imminent.

The neighborhood groups filed a motion for a preliminary injunction July 3 to halt any work lest it "influence or prejudice" alternatives to the project pending a final hearing on the case.

But on Thursday, they joined with the Federal Highway Administration, Arkansas Department of Transportation and other defendants in seeking to withdraw the motion.

"The parties have conferred, and defendants have represented to the plaintiffs that the beginning of construction activities on the project is not imminent," the motion filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock said. "Based on that representation and in the interests of efficiency, plaintiffs withdraw their motion for preliminary injunction without prejudice."

In an email, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, Richard Mays of Little Rock, said construction wasn't expected to begin until the middle of next year.

In Thursday's filings, state and federal highway officials also agreed to give Mays 45 days' notice before any construction activities begin. The filings were jointly submitted by Mays and an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Christopher M. Chellis, who represents the Federal Highway Administration.

"That would give us time to refile the motion for preliminary injunction and get a hearing on an injunction before construction starts," Mays said in the email.

The neighborhood coalition filed suit in May, alleging that the environmental review supporting the project to remake the 6.7-mile corridor between Interstate 530 in Little Rock and Interstate 40 in North Little Rock was so flawed that the project should be scrapped until a more rigorous review that meets federal requirements is performed.

The lawsuit identifies what its backers see as shortcomings in the project's environmental-assessment, a review that falls short of a more intensive and costly environmental impact statement. In giving the project the green light in March, the head of the Federal Highway Administration's Arkansas division, Angel Correa, who is named as a defendant, said the environmental-impact statement was unnecessary.

The plaintiffs include the Little Rock Downtown Neighborhood Association and the Pettaway Neighborhood Association, the Hanger Hill Neighborhood Association, as well as their umbrella organization, the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, whose longtime president, Kathy Wells, is among the individual plaintiffs.

A joint venture selected by the Transportation Department to complete the project pegged the entire cost at slightly less than $1 billion. The joint venture is working with state transportation officials to decide what can be built now as part of what is now a first phase.

The project includes widening the section to 10 lanes from six and replacing the Arkansas River bridge. The undertaking also includes the section of I-40 between I-30 and U.S. 67/167 in North Little Rock.

Under a revised project scope, the bridge will be replaced, while work to eliminate the traffic weaving on the I-40 section and a new interchange south of the bridge in Little Rock also remain top priorities. Unlikely to be a part of the first phase is widening a section of I-30 between I-40 and the bridge

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr.

Metro on 07/12/2019

Print Headline: Assured I-30 job delayed, foes pull request for halt

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Comments

  • MBAIV
    July 12, 2019 at 7:22 a.m.

    The 30 Crossing project would reduce pollution by reducing slow/stopped traffic in the area, would NOT change the east/west division of any neighborhoods (all existing crossing streets remain), would increase the park area in the River Market/Clinton Library section, would take very little additional right-of-way, would replace a dangerous river bridge, would provide a non-Interstate bridge crossing between LR/NLR and would provide a safer North Interchange situation.
    .
    Yep -- I can see how the plaintiffs would be opposed to it.

  • limb
    July 12, 2019 at 7:51 a.m.

    Bridgework with better ramps are all that is needed.
    Many cities wish are working to remove these expansive lanes from living -friendly downtown areas.

  • RBBrittain
    July 12, 2019 at 8:14 a.m.

    I agree with everything MBAIV said except I wouldn't characterize the collector-distributor lanes of the new I-30 bridge as "a non-Interstate bridge crossing"; it's still an interstate, but it separates downtown LR/NLR traffic from traffic to & from I-630 and points south (a major cause of traffic clogs in that area).
    .
    The confirmed delay may also give me time to sell an idea that not only would help ARDOT finance the project, but also could alleviate some of the opponents' concerns: Tolling the I-30 bridge. Though Federal law generally prohibits tolling of existing interstates, it does NOT prohibit tolling of new or replacement bridges on existing interstates. I suggest ARDOT, perhaps with legislative authorization, enter into intergovernmental agreements with appropriate tolling authorities in Kansas, Oklahoma and/or Texas (whose toll systems are now 100% interoperable) to put together a 100% electronic tolling system that can be easily installed on the I-30 bridge, the new I-40 White River bridge currently under construction in Prairie County, and other new freeways (I-49, I-57, I-69). The available booth-free options in KS/OK/TX include an RFID windshield tag for heavy commuters (cheapest option; I currently have a North Texas TollTag but I suggest KS' K-Tag as the primary model as it does NOT require a deposit for most travelers, unlike OK's Pikepass and TX's TollTag, EZ TAG & TxTag), a smartphone app for less frequent travelers (middle option costwise), and video tolling by mail for one-time travelers (most expensive option). Privacy & collection issues should be worked out in the enabling legislation, such as clearly prohibiting use of the toll system for speed enforcement (automated speed enforcement is already illegal here; the "your speed" displays are FYI only) and limiting abusive video toll collection practices (an issue in parts of TX).

  • MBAIV
    July 12, 2019 at 8:33 a.m.

    LIMB - With very few exceptions, the new design fits into the existing RoW. There is almost no expansion into any neighborhood - the most impact might be reduced atmospheric pollution since vehicles wouldn't be sitting on the Interstate idling like they do now. I suppose that the 6th St and 9th St overpasses should get wider sidewalks and maybe planters between lanes -- but even that doesn't change the impact to any neighborhoods.
    .
    If LR wants to be/remain the state's center of commerce and gov't there must be reasonable ways to get to/from/through the city. 30 Crossing has little downside - especially when compared to the current situation.

  • hah406
    July 12, 2019 at 8:47 a.m.

    I live just west of 30 Crossing off of 6th Street, and this needs to be done. One, I don't want to drive off of the bridge into the river one day. Two, the traffic during rush hours is horrible, and this will help to better distribute it with fewer delays. Finally, who are these groups who are filing lawsuits? Do they actually live in the neighborhood? They certainly aren't doing anything on my account.

  • FollowDaMoney
    July 12, 2019 at 9:10 a.m.

    Something has to be done about the bridge. Seriously, if you walked across the bridge and could see all the holes you would definitely say a prayer before traversing it. There will be good and bad in every project. Let's work as hard to protect the homeowners on the ROW. Let's fix the 630/30 merge nightmare. Let's make it easier to get around. Sure, you want everyone to live downtown and ride bikes. Not our reality. Fix what needs fixing.

  • Retirednwsman
    July 12, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.

    Sure, let's put this whole project off a few more years, we don't need the improvements (sarcasm intended). This whole message keeps bringing back memories of the North Belt Freeway project for years until finally developers filled in a lot of the area with new homes, and that put the final kabosh on the project. We could sure use that freeway now, but too late. Arkies just want to continue to be behind the times.

  • SeanJohn
    July 12, 2019 at 10:03 a.m.

    LR, NLR, and ARDOT need to do whatever is necessary to move traffic as fast as possible through that area. The way some are indiscriminately shooting up homes and vehicles in LR, I wouldn't feel safe sitting on I30 for any amount of time.

  • RBBrittain
    July 12, 2019 at 11:05 a.m.

    @RetiredNWSMan: I still think the North Belt could be built if my toll proposal happens. ARDOT could move the route in the 107 area slightly north and avoid most of the homes built in its previous path. There was some talk about connecting Highway 89 between Mayflower & Cabot, but Air Force-mandated zoning restrictions on the area north of LRAFB largely killed that.

  • RBear
    July 12, 2019 at 12:08 p.m.

    Completely agree with you MBAIV. In fact, there are many studies that show the reduction in carbon emissions resulting from improved traffic flow. I regularly commute to downtown and have to deal with the area around the bridge daily. It is one of the most dangerous areas to enter and exit I-30 throughout the downtown area. The changes will require some to change their commute path, but it will greatly improve the safety and flow of the highway.

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