Group hires 3rd analyst to look at I-30 | Arkansas Blog

Group hires 3rd analyst to look at I-30

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Fennell's "Convertible Plan B," an interim design for Interstate 30 as it progresses toward a boulevard.
  • Fennell's "Convertible Plan B," an interim design for Interstate 30 as it progresses toward a boulevard.
An group of interested persons — including architect Tom Fennell, Move Arkansas blogger Tim McKuin, principals at StudioMAIN and others, with the help of funds from "couple of small family foundations," have hired a consulting engineer to study the state highway department's reasoning for bumping six-lane Interstate 30 to 10 lanes.

Norman Marshall of the Vermont firm Smart Mobility will review the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's analysis, McKuin announced at a meeting tonight at the Capitol View Stifft Station Resource Center. McKuin spoke after Fennell presented his "convertible" plan that would tweak Interstate 30 design with the idea that it would eventually become a boulevard rather than the "Great Wall of China," as Fennell described the highway department's plan for a 10-lane interstate through downtown Little Rock.

McKuin called the AHTD's planning sessions on what to do to improve I-30 simply a "formality," and their 10-lane solution had the feel of the "inevitable." Rather than take the highway department's word that there's no better solution to the future traffic needs of Little Rock than to try to build out of congestion — a futile effort, since adding lanes adds traffic — McKuin said Little Rock needs an independent expert to take on the data. Smart Mobility's team will also develop "specific recommendations" that go beyond simply building out the interstate system that — as Fennell and others stressed — we can't afford to maintain in any case.

Any alternative to a wider interstate "never had a chance" with the AHTD, McKuin said. 

Smart Mobility will work independently of Nelson/Nygaard, the consulting firm just hired by the city to study the I-30 situation. The Arkansas Public Policy Panel will be the contracting agent for the local partnership (McKuin, Fennell, lawyer Eddy Moore et al.) and Smart Mobility. The family foundations and an individual who are paying for the consultant wish to remain anonymous for now, McKuin said.

Fennell described certain features of the "convertible" plan, including restoring the part of the Hanger Hill neighborhood that the I-630/I-30 interchange destroyed by using a single entry point; replacing bridges with parks over the sections of I-30 that are already below grade at Sixth and Ninth streets; taking I-30 to grade level at Second Street and building overpasses at Third and Fifth streets. He said the boulevard would eventually reclaim about 40 acres now covered by cloverleaf ramps and right-of-way for economic development, such as apartment buildings, shops and businesses. The plan must also include improved arterials; a river bridge linking Pike Avenue traffic to Chester Street should also be considered.

City activist Jim Lynch rose to exhort people to put pressure on city leaders to listen to their objections to the AHTD plan. He said he was disappointed with the City Board of Directors, with the exception of Directors Kathy Webb, who introduced the speakers tonight, and Ken Richardson, who asked their fellows to approve a resolution asking the highway department to put the brakes on the project and do more analysis. Approval of that "should have been a no-brainer," Lynch said; instead the board put a vote on the resolution off until April. Lynch also said he was extremely disappointed with Mayor Stodola's response to January presentations by Metroplan Director Jim McKenzie and others to the board about alternatives to paving downtown; "I couldn't figure out what he said or what he meant when he said it." Lynch added that he was told that when residents of the neighborhood south of Interstate 630 objected to plans to blast away their homes to make room for the Little Rock Technology Park, Stodola told them 630 was going to expand to eight lanes anyway, so what was their problem? [We'll check with the mayor about this in the morning.] Of course, if I-30 goes to 10 lanes, 630 will be next; it's already part of AHTD long-range planning.

A woman in the audience who said she was from Chicago, where she said you teach children how to drive at 2 a.m. because it's the only time the traffic lets up, asked if the highway department had considered how safe it was for Arkansans to negotiate 10 lanes. "I can't imagine people in this town knowing how to drive" on a 10-lane, she said. (As it turns out, Webb said that she learned to drive in Chicago at 2 a.m. as well.)

State Reps. Clarke Tucker and Warwick Sabin were among the 50-plus people attending the meeting, along with Becca Green of Rock Region Metro. McKuin and Fennell also urged the crowd to vote for the transportation tax of .25 cents on the March 1 primary ballot; public transportation is key to preventing the automobile from taking over. (Surface parking already accounts for an enormous percentage of real estate downtown.)

Tonight's crowd at Capitol View Stifft Station Neighborhood Resource Center.
  • Tonight's crowd at Capitol View Stifft Station Neighborhood Resource Center.


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