OPINION | DRIVETIME MAHATMA: Managed lanes offer added capacity during rush hours

Dear Mahatma: When will the Interstate 430 project be completed? Second question: I understand the need for the two extra outside lanes (shoulders) for rush hour traffic. But if these shoulder/lanes are good enough during rush hour, why not just utilize them all the time? Such a waste of money for the several RED/GREEN lane-authorizing lights, signage, electric connections, control boxes, and programming for really no reason. Your thoughts? -- Bob

Dear Bob: We have not been allowed to have our own thoughts since, oh, 1973. So let's first go to the idrivearkansas.com website. It tells us the project is to reconstruct the existing shoulders, construct bridge modifications, install equipment and guardrails on 1.832 miles of this bridge.

With a completion date of -- ta-da! -- "Mid 2022." Which kinds of feels like right now, or pretty darned soon.

Regarding the second question, we asked the Arkansas Department of Transportation about this matter of flexible shoulders and lanes. We got a detailed answer from David Nilles.

Said, in some detail, the indefatigable Mr. Nilles, paraphrased by us:

Paved shoulders are important safety features. They allow emergency use. Think breakdowns and flat tires. They're also useful when drivers need to avoid crashes.

Managed lane systems are a mobility strategy to make the most effective and efficient use of the highway, especially in urbanized areas with right of way constraints.

The primary benefit of managed lanes is additional capacity during peak rush hours. But times of operation can and will be adjusted to match actual conditions. ArDot's Traffic Management Center will monitor the bridge for any condition that would warrant turning the lane back into a shoulder. For example, if a car is observed stopping in the managed lane (shoulder) because of a breakdown.

Managed lanes can also be opened during special events or incidents when added capacity would benefit through traffic. During off-peak hours, the managed lane reverts to a shoulder.

This approach balances mobility and safety while taking advantage of the lanes available to decrease congestion when needed.

Actually, we have two thoughts, if we may.

First, anyone who has tried to drive from Maumelle to Little Rock during morning rush, or the other way during evening rush, will appreciate the additional lanes. That bridge can get seriously clogged.

Second, it will take some getting used to, those flexible lanes. So pay attention, people.

Hi Mahatma: Yesterday I saw this vanity plate -- CLMDOWN. Good advice for all of us! Time to calm down! -- Rosemary.

Dear Rosemary: Let's co-author a book. Call it "Zen and the Art of Driving Over the Interstate 430 Bridge During Rush Hour While Learning How to Navigate the New Managed Lane System."

Doing so might require some serious calm.