The Little Rock City Board
agenda meeting this week includes a city staff recommendation for a $50,000 contract with the consulting firm Nelson Nygaard
to continue to consult on the proposed 30 Crossing
project to widen Interstate 30 through the middle of Little Rock.
That is a small hopeful sign, I suppose, from a city board that has largely fallen in line with the highway contractors and chamber of commerce in accepting pretty much whatever the Highway Department wants in the interest of moving commuters in and out of Little Rock faster, without much regard for impact on the city. Yes, the current plan offers some improvement of the existing Markham Street exit and creation of some open space that could be a nice park if the city had any money to do anything with it.
But the plan will screw up the Highway 10 corridor (LaHarpe and Cantrell); create untold cross-town problems; further divide downtown from the developing east side; induce new traffic burdens at other places on the freeway system that will require hundreds of millions in fixes. And all this for just marginal improvements in speed on a freeway that is not overburdened with traffic now.
The Nelson Nygaard contract (an earlier one for $75,000 had been completed) will run for a year. The proposal before the board says
it will help the city respond to concerns on the project, which is still in an environmental assessment phase.
In its earlier work, the firm didn't take a formal position on 30 Crossing, but it did note potential problems
, particularly impact on development downtown and impact on east-west traffic.
:The Board is being asked to adjust the current year budget because of a $3 million shortfall in expected taxes and other revenue streams. Sales taxes will fall $1.8 million short. The shortfall will be covered in part with transfer of more than $800,000 in contingency money and $2 million in expense reductions, more than half from not filling open positions.
Also coming to a future Board meeting is the continued effort by the Popeye's fried chicken chain to put an outlet on the northwest corner of Monroe and Markham, now occupied by a vacant bank branch. The city planning staff has recommended against it. The proposal has been through several revisions in consideration by planning groups, including pitched opposition from residents at a meeting in September when the Commission split 5-5 on a vote to approve the plan.
That puts the heat squarely on the city board — chicken v. neighborhood. I love Popeye's, but the Monroe-Markham intersection is already a frequent nightmare because it serves as the interest to the vast public employee parking lot at War Memorial Stadium for use by UAMS and Health Department workers. It's also the gateway to War Memorial Park, including the zoo and fitness center. Single-family residences are across Monroe to the east and immediately north of the property.