The Little Rock City Board
recessed a meeting last night before a vote could be taken on a resolution that urged state Highway Director Scott Bennett not to freeze federal spending on projects in Central Arkansas.
Bennett imposed the freeze because of the failure of Metroplan to adopt some changes in wording in its regional traffic plan in a way that some city directors believe
gives approval to adding additional lanes to Interstate 30.
Since that resolution was filed, there have been developments on 30 Crossing,
the highway department's $600 million-plus project to widen I-30 and replace the Arkansas River bridge. Mayors Mark Stodola and Joe Smith
of North Little Rock and County Judge Barry Hyde
have said the Metroplan change is fine with them (though some question whether their approval is sufficient absent a vote of the respective governing boards.) The Metroplan Board must approve the transportation plan change at a meeting Dec. 20. Then, says the highway department, the freeze will be lifted.
We've also learned the Highway Department now officially is behind making the freeway a minimum of 10 lanes wide (and much wider at some interchange points). Eight lanes just isn't
enough, highway officials believe.
An expression of opposition from the City Board might upset events, but the Board is split on the issue, with several directors solidly lined up with the Chamber of Commerce and its highway contractor members in moving ahead with the construction project. The project will provide no benefits to the city and damage some neighborhoods and downtown traffic flow, but it will provide several years of construction work and a new bridge is necessary to clear the river navigation channel of bridge piers. Some of the worst damage and disruption will be done in Director Erma Hendrix's
ward, but she unaccountably seems to be a fan of freeway construction.
The resolution could be considered at resumption
of the recessed meeting next week.