Metroplan committee considers domino effect of widened I-30 | Arkansas Blog

Metroplan committee considers domino effect of widened I-30


  • Adapted from charts by Walter Kulash, professional engineer

Jim McKenzie, executive director of Metroplan, presented a couple of graphics to Metroplan's Regional Planning Advisory Council today that show impacts of widened highways. They are among a number of things the council might keep in mind as it debates whether to concede to a Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department request to lift Metroplan's six-lane cap on interstate highways so Interstate 30 can be widened. Arkansas Business reported fully on the meeting today. 

McKenzie said that highway engineers consider only the first order of impacts: You widen the road, you reduce delay, and because that reduces stop and go traffic, drivers save money.

Compared to doing nothing, the first order looks bad: If you accept congestion on your roads, you increase delays and cost of operating vehicles. 

However, consider impacts down the road, so to speak. Above, you see that wider roads, according to engineer Walter Kulash, means folks can move to the suburbs, and to make things more convenient, move their businesses too,  hence urban sprawl. And what's the result of urban sprawl? More road building, as in the Big Rock Interchange.

But, what if you accept that rush hour traffic is going to be slow. Improving your home in town may appeal more than moving to a home in the suburbs. Jobs will stay in town, Main Street will flourish and fewer miles will be driven. 

  • Adapted from charts by Walter Kulash, professional engineer

The graphs above can be disputed. But no one is disputing that the Connecting Arkansas Program's vision of what its proposed 10-lane widening project will achieve for Interstate 30 — the free flow of traffic on I-30 from Hwy. 67-167 to just south of I-630 — relies on the assumption that other roads will be widened: Interstate 630 to 8 lanes from I-30 west (to Louisiana, the AHTD says) and I-30 to 8 lanes to 65th street. There's no money for either project included in any plan, neither Metroplan's Imagine Central Arkansas plan or the CAP.

McKenzie and Casey Covington, director of CARTS (Central Arkansas Regional Transportation Study), repeated what was said at last week's meeting of Connecting Arkansas Program director Jerry Holder and RPAC: The 30 Crossing project to widen I-30 fixes congestion in the project area only to create bottlenecks outside the project area, on I-630, I-30 and I-40, and addressing congestion there to the Highway Department's own specifications on acceptable speed will cost up to $4 billion to $5 billion. The RPAC has been given the unenviable task, if it amends the plan to satisfy the AHTD plan, of figuring out how to deal with the ripple effect such a change would have on the plan's framework for sustainability, cost restraints, affect on health and more. 

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