Note: Highway Department doesn't like to talk about freeway alternatives | Arkansas Blog

Note: Highway Department doesn't like to talk about freeway alternatives

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A BETTER WAY: Highway officials kissed off in 2003 and again today the idea of another Arkansas River bridge crossing at Chester Street. They prefer to widen Interstate 30. - MASON ELLIS
  • Mason Ellis
  • A BETTER WAY: Highway officials kissed off in 2003 and again today the idea of another Arkansas River bridge crossing at Chester Street. They prefer to widen Interstate 30.

Noel Oman of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
contributed a tidbit to the ongoing Interstate 30 expansion debate this morning by providing highway department director Scott Bennett an opportunity to tout how a 2003 study recommended 10,  even 11 lanes on the bridge, for an Interstate 30 expansion in Little Rock.

This, said the account, to "more safely collect and distribute vehicles" downtown.

Well, sure. And 20 lanes would be faster still. And because something was a bad idea 12 years ago doesn't mean aging has made it a better idea.

Important point:

* The study's recommendation was NOT adopted by Metroplan, the regional planning agency. For good reason. A little freeway congestion is manageable in the handful of hours each week it's an issue. Safer still is slower traffic on a well-maintained system of collector streets, avenues and boulevards. Super-wide freeways just create ancillary problems and further damage cities that shouldn't have been divided by freeways in the first place.

STILL MORE IMPORTANT:

Buried at the tail end of the story, kissed off by Scott Bennett and summarily dismissed from the current planning for the project to deepen the Grand Canyon of I-30 concrete that divides downtown Little Rock was the 2003 study's preferred alternative to moving traffic across the river:

But the same study also found that an alternative that includes adding a fourth crossing, though having the highest cost, would also have the highest benefits of all of the alternatives, although it wouldn't preclude improvements to the other crossings.

The Highway Department has said that a fourth crossing, identified in the 2003 study as the Pike Avenue crossing but more recently referred to as a crossing at Chester Street, isn't on the state highway system and would have to be paid for by local governments.

The Highway Department COULD add this crossing to the state system. We've talked about it incessantly, including during the Broadway crossing planning that the highway department crammed down local throats. The highway department simply won't consider it. If you don't believe their minds are made up on the preferred alternative for further dividing downtown Little Rock, you don't have to work hard to read between the lines of articles like the one this morning. The ONLY thing that matters to the highway department is moving as much traffic as quickly as possible through downtown Little Rock on Interstate 30. Everything else is a non-starter. They'll throw in some cosmetic embellishments (paint the underpasses!), but little that will prevent the deterioration of the neighborhoods through which the road passes.

And expense? If the 10-lane project IS done, you ain't seen nothing like the congestion that will be created at new choke points, congestion that studies have said will cost $4 BILLION to fix, not just the $600 million for the concrete gulch through Little Rock. The work will include making the Mills Freeway wider still.

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