by Max Brantley
It may prove a quixotic stand, but I'm reminded by an article in the D-G this morning about the ongoing planning process that state Rep. John Walker has been at work behind the scenes raising questions about the Highway Department's desire to spend $45 million, maybe more, to replace the Broadway Bridge linking Little Rock and North Little Rock.
Walker isn't convinced that a time of short money and a highway department begging for new revenue is the time to replace, rather than shore up, a bridge. Don't they repair, rather than replace, the Golden Gate bridge, he asks? He thinks there should be a public process before the highway department moves ahead. He wants to bring department head Dan Flowers in to talk with the legislative Black Caucus about it. Walker also wants to be sure community impact of such road construction is considered. He remembers the predictions of adverse community impact from construction of the Mills Freeway and thinks it's worth thinking about in this case.
UPDATE: I missed while in Asia this John Brummett column exactly on point. He, too, questions the wisdom of the replacement expenditure and the dream of building an architectural monument. He predicted:
This $45 million, which could do a lot of actual good around the state, is not going to be enough to erect a truly significant architectural signature.
So either we are going to get something new that is plain and tacky — though with sidewalks and bike paths — or we are going to run out of money.
In that case we will be forced either to divert yet more of your money or to listen to yet one more tired chapter in the Highway Department’s ever-banal narrative about how we need higher road-user taxes.