The Connecting Arkansas Program's plan for I-30, a project it calls 30 Crossing, would alter the freeway from its North Terminal Interchange at U.S. Hwy. 67-167 to the South Terminal Interchange, where I-30 splits from I-530 to Pine Bluff. [You can find a "roll plot" of the proposal under this link.] Some key points:
The 10 lanes. I-30 becomes 10 lanes south of its interchange with U.S. 67/167 in North Little Rock. It becomes six lanes again at I-630 and nine lanes south of I-630 to the I-530 split (the South Terminal Interchange).
The "Cantrell Interchange." This confusingly named segment of freeway, on the Little Rock side of I-30 at Second Street, has the most problematic design and has engendered much controversy in Little Rock.
In a nutshell, if you are southbound on I-30 headed for Little Rock, you've got to get into "collector-distributor" lanes — separated by barricades from the interior six lanes of I-30 as it crosses the Arkansas River — that begin just past the Broadway Street exit in North Little Rock. There are three C/D lanes at that point. The lane on the far right crosses the river and empties into Second Street. The middle lane flies over to Sixth Street. The lane on the left allows drivers who got into the C/D system from Broadway to enter the main I-30 lanes. Should you miss the C/D lane exit, you will not be able to exit into downtown Little Rock from I-30.
"It's going to take a little while to get used to," AHTD Design Build Project Director Ben Browning said. "Signage will be critical."
Northbound drivers in Little Rock headed for North Little Rock must also merge into a C/D lane that starts in Little Rock just past the Second Street exit.
Because the lanes are barricaded from the six inner lanes, the highway department and the supportive Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce have made the Orwellian statement that the freeway is not actually 10 lanes at this section. Six are middle. Four are collector-distributor. See? The design of this portion of the project is in flux, since it envisioned making Second Street west and Fourth Street east state highways that would carry through traffic to and from Cantrell, a plan no one likes.
More on the Cantrell Interchange later.
Though the AHTD hopes to get through this process quickly and begin construction in a couple of years, a couple of things could slow that down: Metroplan and lawsuits.
A safer route from U.S. 67 to I-30. Today, if you are coming from, say, McCain Mall and want to go to Little Rock, you have move to the left lanes on U.S. 67 because the right lane goes east to Memphis. Then, where I-30 and I-40 westbound merge, drivers have to cross two lanes of I-40 traffic to access I-30 south and proceed to Little Rock. The 30 Crossing fixes this mess for folks headed to Little Rock: If you're in the right lane on U.S. 67, you'll have a straight shot to I-30 via a flyover over I-40.
However, if you are coming south on U.S. 67 and want to take I-40 to Maumelle and points west, you'll have to do what I-30-bound traffic does now — cross left (east) over two lanes to get to I-40 (west).
A concession to NLR. The AHTD conceded to demands from citizens of North Little Rock that the Curtis Sykes Street off ramp, once removed because it was too short to be safe, be restored, to maintain the honor to Sykes. Belinda Burney, Sykes' daughter and a leader in the Dark Hollow community, worked with 30 Crossing engineers to redesign the ramp and preserve the exit and is so well-versed in the highway plans north of the river that she, rather than AHTD personnel, was busy explaining the complicated maps to interested persons at the public meeting CAP held at the Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene in October. This has made for good highway department-public relations north of the river.
Burney is not entirely satisfied with one part of the 30 Crossing design: A ramp from Curtis Sykes back to I-30 has been done away with for safety reasons. That means if you live just east of I-30 in North Little Rock and want to get to I-40 westbound, you've got three circuitous options, all of which take about the same time, according to AHTD Design Build Project Director Browning: You can drive west to North Little Rock's Main Street and then north to I-30; or take Locust Street north to an access road to North Hills Boulevard overpass and loop around; or head south to a new Texas turnaround on Broadway and get back on I-30, moving to the left lane that accesses I-40.
Other exit changes. There will be no Ninth Street exit. Today's standards for highways require longer exit ramps, to meet the safety needs of "bigger and faster cars," Browning said. The only exits to downtown Little Rock will be at Second and Sixth.
Entering I-630: There will be three lanes rather than the current two from I-30 to get to I-630 and two lanes rather than the current one from I-630 to I-30. Traffic southbound on I-630 to I-30 will get a second lane as well.
The northbound ramp from Roose-velt Road to I-30 will expand to two lanes.