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O Great and Wise Mahatma: I'm guessing the wise fools at the Department of Paving are giggling over the decision to meld six lanes of westbound traffic (three each on Interstates 40 and 430) down to two lanes at rush hour. I wish I were in on the joke that's creating lines of traffic backing up for miles every night. If they can't manage this -- adding a single new interchange -- I can only imagine the delays when replacing the Interstate 30 bridge in downtown. -- Fu Manchu

Dear Fu: You are obviously torqued, and must drive home every night to some exurb, an exurb being a place beyond even the suburbs. No one told you to move way the heck out there.

We saw this mess on Tuesday, headed north on I-430. Right about the river, the traffic started to back up. By the time we got to the I-30 eastbound exit toward North Little Rock, traffic merging onto I-40 west was at a standstill and backed up past Burns Park.

It was a flipping fire drill. Your pain felt.

Mark Headley, chief cook, bottlewasher and engineer of District 6 of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, makes some points in response. Take them as you wish. We do our best here to bring people together, up to and including singing Kumbaya around a campfire. Marshmallows provided.

Point the first: The work on I-40 at the new interchange reduced three lanes to two lanes. The lane closure was necessary to replace bridge approach slabs at Newton Creek that were constructed with the existing bridge in 1997. Also to apply a preservation sealer and overlay to the existing concrete bridge deck.

Point the second: The contractor was given 20 calendar days to complete this work in each direction. The eastbound side was completed in 14 days. The westbound side was completed in 16 days. Monetary penalties would be assessed to the contractor if work goes beyond 20 days.

Point the third: This interchange work has been going on since January, and closures during peak times have only now occurred. The overall project is currently expected to be completed by the end of this November. Maumelle will then have a third in and out.

Point the fourth: Regarding 30 Crossing, additional lanes and shoulders proposed for that project should allow ArDot to require the contractor to not close any lanes during peak travel times each day.

About which, we say, time will tell.

Dear Mahatma: I was a bit irritated when you said "retired" is just another word for "unemployed." I like to think the term as more like Rightfully Earned Time In Return for Employment Discharged. I earned it, you earned it. Hooray for us! -- Joyce

Dear Joyce: You have taken us to the woodshed for a mild whuppin', which we deserve. For a lot of reasons.

What we meant to write was: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

Metro on 10/19/2019


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