Little Rock Chamber backs 10-lane freeway plan | Arkansas Blog

Little Rock Chamber backs 10-lane freeway plan


MORE CONCRETE! The Chamber has spoken. The rest of you little folks can now shut up.
  • MORE CONCRETE! The Chamber has spoken. The rest of you little folks can now shut up.

The Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, probably in reaction to rising community opposition, has issued a statement in support of the Arkansas Highway Department's plan to widen I-30 through Little Rock to 10 lanes.

Not surprising. The chamber and related organizations are supported by people who make maximum profit from road building. They are establishment to the core. New urbanism and preservation of core neighborhoods are of little concern to the manifest destiny of the road builders.

Remember that the Highway Department has allegedly said it is open to different ideas. It has, however, in private, jeered at those ideas. Will Mayor Mark Stodola and members of the City Board stand up to the chamber's effort to foreclose discussions of better ideas that build, rather than damage, the community?

It's doubtful. The chamber underwrote the city's tax increase (hiding the financing mechanism in the process) in return for payola in the form of a publicly financed real estate play known as the Tech Park. The chamber has been a force for ill in the city's public schools, too. Why not bypass Little Rock? It's fast on its way to becoming Detroit, as Baker Kurrus has said, with the deadly influence of white flight (encouraged by widened freeways) and the privatization aims of chamber regulars like the Waltons, Hussmans and Stephenses.

The chamber's statement:

In light of the public discussion about the “30 Crossing” project for improving the I-30 corridor, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce is issuing a public declaration of support for the overall design of 6 primary lanes with 4 connector/distributor lanes for local traffic.

This overall design provides increased accessibility as well as safety for people traveling to and from the downtown area. We commend the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, and its design team coordinated by Garver Engineers, for developing a plan that improves traffic safety while not materially increasing the existing right-of-way for the corridor. We also commend them for being responsive to the many legitimate concerns that have been expressed by the public throughout the approximately 18 months of planning and community outreach that has already taken place.

We welcome the broad community interest and discussion about what is the best possible design that enhances our downtown business and residential climate, but also remembers the needs and safety of the thousands of citizens who commute to work every day into our downtown areas.

Responsive how? Faster traffic and safer conditions for through traffic from Texas to Mississippi and commuter sfleeing the rotting urban core of Little Rock. Thanks Chamber, we needed that.

Remember, too that the chamber is a major player in a tax-dollar-sucking regional economic development organization that thinks using Little Rock tax dollars to encourage business location in Conway is good for the city of Little Rock. So of course they favor freeways that get people to and from Conway faster.

There are voices in the city that will not be silent as the chamber tries to stifle this needed debate.

This is the kind of thing that made me support the lawsuit that challenged sending city tax dollars from poor people's Big Macs and groceries to a group that so often works against the interests of so many people.

Has it ever occurred to the chamber that designing a road to encourage people to live here, rather than come and go, could be good for the city? See our earlier post on a planner's design for an I-30 boulevard through town, with transient traffic circling the perimeter. You tell me, does that statement sound like one from a group more concerned with commuters than the people who live here?

The chamber seems here, too, to have declared an end to a design and environmental process that the Highway Department has insisted was ongoing. Skeptical? I am.

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