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Dear Mahatma: Of the various road construction projects in central Arkansas I haven't seen any mention of widening Interstate 630 (Wilbur Mills Freeway to some) from University Avenue to the downtown connection with Interstate 30. Is this too monumental of a task to even consider? -- Lee

Dear Lee: Monumental is not the word, in our view. We remember when Interstate 630 was built, a couple of generations ago. It split the city geographically, politically and emotionally. Still does.

So we went straight to the lead dog at the Arkansas Department of Transportation, Director Scott Bennett.

Dude, we asked, what about this? Bennett described his response as clear as mud. We will try to drain the swamp for nonengineers in the 500 words allowed.

First, current funding levels have precluded consideration of such a widening. If a proposed constitutional amendment for a permanent 0.5% sales tax, dedicated to highways, passes in 2020, consideration may occur. (Yes, this is Bennett's shameless plug for passage.)

Second, there were environmental commitments made way back when from Dennison Street to I-30, including buffer zones, a tree screen at MacArthur Park, and earthen berms along MacArthur Park and the Scott Street and Cumberland Avenue ramps. Also, the roadway is built at least 20 feet below ground level. What happens to these commitments?

Third, there are proposals involving the department, the city and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to make changes at the Pine Street/Cedar Street interchange to improve traffic flow.

Fourth, traffic can be made to flow more efficiently without adding lanes. So-called operational improvements could include allowing traffic to travel on the shoulder during peak times. Or ramp metering. That is, installing traffic signals at on-ramps to allow additional vehicles onto I-630 only when there are adequate gaps in traffic.

Fifth, improvements will be made during construction of the 30 Crossing project, which proposes to fix I-30 through Little Rock and North Little Rock, including replacement of the river bridge. That would include adding lanes and on-ramps where Interstates 30 and 630 meet.

Here's the mud part. Wrap your minds around all this, folks:

• Addition of one lane on the ramp from I-30 westbound to I-630 westbound terminating at the Cumberland Street exit ramp on I-630.

• Construction of an on-ramp from the I-30 westbound frontage road to I-630 westbound.

• Addition of one lane on the ramp from I-630 eastbound to I-30 eastbound.

• Construction of an I-30 auxiliary lane between the I-630 interchange and the planned collector/distributor system at the river bridge.

• Construction of a ramp from I-630 eastbound to the I-30 eastbound frontage road.

All this causes our pea brain to speculate that a widening of I-630 from University Avenue to I-30 is something that may happen. Someday. But not in the rapidly declining life span of most of us.

Vanity plate: OCD OCD.

[email protected]

Metro on 06/29/2019

Print Headline: DRIVETIME MAHATMA: More I-630 expansion has snags


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Archived Comments

  • LR1955
    June 29, 2019 at 6:55 a.m.

    I remember when Interstate 630 was built too. It split the city geographically, politically, emotionally, and RACIALLY.

    June 29, 2019 at 7:12 a.m.


    Could you inquire about correcting the newly painted incorrect arrows on Pine at I-630?

    Crossing bridge on Pine northbound, the left lane has correct double arrow showing 90 or 30 degree left turn. 90 degree leads to !-630 West, 30 degree leads to UAMS/VA Hospitals.

    The problem is the middle lane double arrow shows 90 degree left (incorrect) or straight.

    So now the left lane no longer can really proceed to VA/UAMS if middle lane can cut across to full 90 degree.

    There was no change to the dotted line lane marking (correct) between left and middle lane indicating left lane has option of turning 30 degrees and proceeding to UAMS/VA.

    When the inevitable crash occurs, who or whom is at fault? And does one contact AR State Police of LRPD?