by Max Brantley
Mayors Mark Stodola of Little Rock and Pat Hays of North Little Rock have responded to Arkansas Highway Director Scott Bennett's blind-siding of them yesterday with dismissal of a consultant's finding that the Broadway Bridge could be rehabilitated for far less than a replacement bridge would cost.
In a joint letter, the mayors gently chide Bennett for not telling them about his conclusion first. But then they get positive.
They continue to insist it would be far cheaper and less disruptive to the local economy to rehabilitate the existing Broadway Bridge and extend its life while buying time for a longer-range solution. The rehab also could make the lanes and pedestrian paths better in the process.
They also make clear that they believe the Highway Department's compromise idea on tearing down the bridge — to instead build a new bridge alongside it and leave the old bridge to the cities for their maintenance as a recreational span — is unworkable. The new responsibility for the city is too expensive. The design also would bar a grand entrance to the pedestrian span and create an awkward road design on the new span. Among others, they say, it would create problems with planned expansion of Robinson Center. The mayors also elaborated on a piece of information they've been pushing in recent days, too: They contend federal bridge replacement money, under new federal legislation, need not be lost if it is not taken this year.
The mayors dangle their support for the Highway Department's push for a November sales tax increase, which will include some new turnback money for cities, as a reason for buying time for a longer-term better solution, with cooperation on all sides.
A pretty good effort, I think. But the Highway Department is famously stubborn. They do understand politics, however. The letter follows on jump: