by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department yesterday (D-G, paywall) told the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock that they and their consulting engineers don't know what they're talking about. The one and only solution for what they perceive is a problem with the Broadway Bridge is to tear it down and replace it with an ugly piece of concrete similar to, say, the homely Main Street span. We'll get a couple of years of traffic nightmares first. Oh, yeah, there's a window dressing plan of a poorly designed alternate structure to be built alongside the existing span, which could then be converted for pedestrian use. The Highway Department's heart isn't in that plan, clearly. Where is George Fisher when we need him to put "Keep Busy" pith helmets on the pointy heads of highway engineers?
The solution is to hold the phone. Give up the federal money available this year for Broadway replacement, if indeed it really can't be put on hold. Continue the pittance of annual maintenance costs. Begin planning in earnest for a new river crossing upriver. Plan, as proposed by Mayors Mark Stodola and Pat Hays: After the construction of the new bridge, convert the Broadway Bridge into a glorious public plaza between Dickey-Stephens Park and the Robinson Music Hall. It would be Little Rock's own version of New York's wildly popular High Line railroad-to-park conversion.
A beautiful dream or another monstrosity to keep highway engineers busy? The Highway Department has made it clear it favors monstrosity.
Remember this when they ask you to increase your sales tax to build four-lanes between Turkey Gizzard and Bumfuzzle. They spit on your idea of sound planning and good design. They prefer the spend-it-now-and-hang-the-cost-of-traffic-disruptions school of money management.