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Closings for 30 Crossing project rev up

Drivers need to pay attention, ‘lot of changes happening’, highway exec says by Noel Oman | October 10, 2020 at 3:45 a.m.
This June 2016 file photo shows an aerial view of the Interstate 30 corridor through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo)

Work on the nearly $1 billion 30 Crossing highway project will ramp up this week, and so will the number of ramp and lane closings along the 6.7-mile Interstate 30 corridor through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

"The project has started in earnest," said Keli Wylie, who is overseeing the project as alternative project delivery administrator for the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

The work comes more than six years after planning began on the project that is the agency's most expensive and complex, but one that will result in the state's busiest corridor being outfitted with modernized interchanges and ramps, additional lanes and a new bridge over the Arkansas River once work is complete.

Work already is underway in the river on the bridge, a new opening in the flood wall in North Little Rock is under construction, utilities continue to be relocated, and work on a new frontage road on the Little Rock side has begun.

"This is all just phase prep work to begin building that new bridge," Wylie said.

But that means challenges for the tens of thousands of drivers who use the corridor daily or park in downtown Little Rock.

The agency announced last week that one off-ramp for East Ninth Street will be permanently closed, another will be closed through the middle of next year, and a third, at East Sixth Street, will be closed intermittently over two nights this week.

Three more ramps as well as I-30 main lanes and city streets on both sides of the river began seeing closings Sunday as different aspects of the first phase of the project got underway.

"A lot of changes are happening," said Randy Ort, another top department executive. "People are really going to need to pay attention."

The ramp closings begin Tuesday when the westbound I-30 off-ramp to Ninth Street, also called Exit 140A, will be permanently closed. Traffic can use the Sixth Street off-ramp or the Main Street exit on Interstate 630 to access downtown.

On Wednesday, the Ninth Street on-ramp to westbound I-30 will be closed until the middle of next year.

On the same day, the westbound I-30 off-ramp to Sixth Street, also called Exit 140B, will be closed intermittently between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. for back-to-back nights. Traffic will detour to the Main Street exit on I-630.

Traffic will be controlled by signs, construction barrels and barriers, the department said.

The ramp closings will allow for construction of an east I-30 frontage road between Sixth Street and the Cantrell Road interchange as well as the west I-30 frontage road that begins at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.

The project is part of the state's $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program that is focused on improving regionally significant corridors around the state. It is being funded with a temporary half-percent statewide sales tax that voters approved in 2012.

The tax expires in 2023. Voters have an opportunity next month to vote on a permanent half-percent sales tax that also will be devoted to road and bridge construction projects.

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