by Max Brantley
1) One idea looks at creating a series of essentially non-negotiable frameworks that the design would have to ensure. These include no new right-of-way taken, a reduced footprint anywhere possible (especially on on-off ramps) to gain developable (taxable) land, and the construction of increased connectivity across the freeway through more bridges. The more negotiable but ideal solutions would include: a trenched design that allows for the entire city grid to extend across the top of the freeway, a deck park (similar to Klyde Warren Park in Dallas) on top of the freeway between 6th and 9th Streets, and a design to enable streetcar use/ expansion across freeway.
2) The other idea removes the freeway and replace it with a series of boulevards. I-440 would change name to I-30 and carry through-traffic, relieving congestion off the newly constructed boulevards.
These are very big ideas but it is important for the AHTD and all parties involved to think about the biggest ideas possible before agreeing upon the best solution. I see this freeway topic as a great opportunity for Little Rock and North Little Rock but only if done with consensus.
Currently I-30 carries 120,000 cars daily from I-40 through downtown Little Rock. Much of this traffic then turns and heads west on to I-630. The traffic counts on I-30 south of I630 down to the I-530 interchange is only 80,000-90,000 cars daily. These traffic loads help determine the overall boulevard design that would replace the freeway within the corridor. I-30 would continue to connect to I-40; I-440 would see a name-change and would become I-30.
For this design there would be two boulevard designs, one that would be a six lane (3 in each direction) and one that would be two parallel 4-lane boulevards.
The 6-lane boulevard would run from I-40 south to the Arkansas River, crossing the river on a newly constructed 6-lane bridge. Once crossing the river, the boulevard would meet 2nd street at which it splits into two separate, parallel boulevards that are each 4 lanes (2 in each direction). Having four traffic lanes in each direction will be able to carry large traffic loads but do so in a more urban, slower speed. These parallel boulevards will run where the current service roads run. The more western boulevard will be designed to move traffic going towards downtown Little Rock and onwards to I-630. The eastern boulevard will move traffic that is moving towards East Little Rock and onwards towards I-30. South of I-630, the eastern boulevard will continue south to I-30, becoming a six lane boulevard that is similar in design to that in North Little Rock.
The four-lane boulevard will have a right-of-way of roughly 90', with 15' sidewalks on each side, four lanes of traffic of 11' each, and a median of 16' that can accommodate future streetcar, cycle tracks, or other desired uses. The six-lane boulevard will be designed more like Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, with a 135' right of way. There will be 15' sidewalks, six lanes of 11' each, and then a large median of roughly 40' which would have a bicycle track and pedestrian path. It could also be designed to allow for streetcars in the future.
By removing I-30, the historic street grid can be reconstructed which will enable enhanced mobility to east little rock. Additionally, it will open up tens of acres for development and open space. Since the freeway right-of-way (with service roads) is over 400'), this will allow for a whole new city block to be constructed between the two parallel boulevards. This block will be roughly 200-250' wide, similar in size to the ideal Portland block. The six-lane boulevard in southern Little Rock and in North Little Rock will be constructed on one side of the right-of-way in order to allow for redevelopment of newly-available land on one side.
This design will reconnect east LR to downtown, create great economic development opportunities, generate increased property taxes, and create new open space.