Work on the nearly $1 billion 30 Crossing project is finally ramping up to the point where it will be hard for drivers, downtown residents and merchants to ignore.
Starting today, workers on the project to remake the 6.7-mile corridor through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock will close off two parking lots in the River Market, a section of road adjacent to I-30 and sections of the Arkansas River Trail on both sides of the river until further notice.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation also is expected to announce today more extensive lane closings than drivers have seen to date.
To this point, any work done on the project has been described as preliminary. That still remains the case to a certain extent, according to Randy Ort, a top agency executive.
"There's gong to be a whole lot more happening coming up," he said Thursday. "The motorists are noticing the signs up on [Interstate] 630 showing road construction for the next seven miles."
Until now, lane closings have been limited in scope to allow crews to obtain drill samples to factor into the final design specifications of the project.
Still to come are the installation of "advance warning systems," additional cameras to monitor traffic within the work zone and the creation of staging areas for equipment needed for the project, Ort said.
"There's a lot of moving parts," he said. "Some of it's still preparatory work."
The activity comes in the wake of a legal victory for the department and the Federal Highway Administration against a group of downtown neighborhood groups and residents opposed to the project.
The opponents are appealing a Sept. 3 order by U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. denying their request to immediately stop construction on the project until a more comprehensive review of the project's environmental impacts has been performed.
Their lead attorney, Richard Mays of Little Rock, has said he will ask the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to issue an injunction until an expedited appeal is heard.
As far as the department is concerned, Moody's ruling has given the project a green light, according to Ort.
"We are free to move forward now," he said.
Today, moving forward entails closing two parking lots made available by the existence of the interstate. They are the lot inside the westbound off-ramp loop to Arkansas 10/Cantrell Road and President Clinton Avenue, which is accessed from East Second Street, and the lot underneath I-30 between East Second Street and President Clinton Avenue that is accessible from Ferry Street.
Beginning today, a section of Ottenheimer Plaza beginning at President Clinton Avenue to west of I-30, including below the interstate, will be closed. Alternate detours will be signed, the department said.
The preliminary work also will impact the Arkansas River Trail.
Starting today, river trail traffic below I-30 will be detoured south to President Clinton Avenue. The same work will require the river trail underneath I-30 in North Little Rock also to be closed, but that won't take place until Monday, the department said. Trail traffic on that side of the river will be detoured north to Riverfront Drive.