The City Board will vote Tuesday on a resolution to enter into a $75,770 contract
with consultants Nelson/Nygaard
to review the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's 30 Crossing project
to replace the Interstate 30 bridge and widen the interstate to 10 lanes.
The firm describes itself as "committed to developing transportation systems that promote vibrant, sustainable, and accessible communities," and says on its website that "we recognize that transportation is not an end by itself but a platform for achieving broader community goals of mobility, equity, economic development, and healthy living."
The resolution says the firm would "make recommendations as to actions the City should take in order to maximize the benefits of the project and minimize any negative aspects," and that, based on its review of AHTD planning, interviews with "key stakeholders" and a "market analysis," it will create a "Downtown Vision [that] will include an assessment of and recommendations concerning east-west connectivity."
Should Nelson/Nygaard find that the 10-lane plan or its 8-lane alternative (that no one believes AHTD is taking seriously) will create "negative aspects," what exactly can the city do? The only leverage the city has over the highway department is Mayor Mark Stodola's vote on the Metroplan board of directors. That is, Stodola could vote against the amendment to Metroplan's six-lane interstate restriction that the new highway will require.
(Then again, the highway department might try to bypass Metroplan by describing what it is doing as rebuilding the six-lane highway with four collector-distributor lanes that should not be included in the count. That's how the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce has described the project.
East-west connectivity — that is, creating (and paying for) the amenities to relieve the blight the 10-lane underpasses will create — is something the city can do. Let's hope that's not all that comes out of the contract.