The Quapaw Quarter Association will hold its annual meeting and awards dinner Tuesday and that group’s efforts to preserve the past strikes me as ever more relevant today.

The Jimmy Strawn lifetime achievement award will go to The Group for their revitalization of a stretch of Gaines Street, plus other downtown work. Elizabeth Bowles and her mother, Tina Van Horn, one of The Group’s co-founders, will present a brief history. Other awards: 


This year’s Award of Merit recipients include Matt Foster for the rehabilitation of the Leo Treadway House; CJRW, Jameson Architects, Kinco Constructors, and Terraforma LLC for the rehabilitation of the Fulk Building; Darrell Brown and the Sherwood History and Heritage Committee for the rehabilitation of the Roundtop Filling Station; and Tom and Ellen Fennell for their Forgotten Little Rock Facebook page.

Laura Sergeant will receive the Peg Smith Award to recognize her exemplary volunteer work.

Guest speaker for the event at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Ron Robinson Theater is Donovan Rypkema, a Washington real estate and development consultant. His firm has been working on a study of an area in Little Rock including 8,000 parcels that will look at some 75 metrics to make specific recommendations on how to stabilize and revitalize historic neighborhoods.

I’d be willing to bet that prescribing new and wider slashes of freeway concrete is NOT recommended as a way to preserve historic neighborhoods. Little Rock should already know this, from the heroic strides made in the Quapaw neighborhood despite the disruption of the Mills Freeway (Interstate 630).


But here we go again. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department wants to take an already divisive Interstate 30 freeway (poorly placed decades ago when city fathers — and they were all fathers — got hornswoggled into thinking you wanted the interstate system to run through the heart of cities) and make it even broader and more destructive.

I’ve ranted about this several times the last few days and the Times will have more to say. But note that suddenly positive things are happening on the east side of Interstate 30 — presidential library, Heifer, craft breweries, a new mixed-used business and commercial development, revitalization and new construction in historic Hanger Hill, QQA-backed stabilization of one of the city’s most historic houses. The current plan for Interstate 30 will throw up an even higher “Berlin Wall” (as one critic put it) between east and west Little Rock. It will make travel between these segments of town harder. It will reduce mass transit options. It will be decidedly unfriendly to non-vehicle (foot, bikes) traffic. To date, city officials have been too reticent to comment. But everyday citizens have not. More outcry is needed.


A great source to follow people intensely interested in travel around town and urban planning is the MoveArkansas blog by Tim McKuin and Cary Tyson. A number of recent posts cover the developing Interstate 30 fiasco (Stop This Outrageous Project). There’s also a Facebook page going — Improve 30 Crossing — which talks of ways to improve the highway department’s 30 Crossing plan for the I-30 corridor between the south and north terminal interchanges. It’s a half-billion project that will cost $4 billion in maintenance Metroplan says and disrupt traffic for years in the process, all in the name of interstate traffic and suburban commuters, while giving little consideration to the quality of the cities it ravages. The bridge must be replaced, most agree, but the rest of it? Time for more discussion. I hope the Quapaw Quarter Association will be a part of it.

PS: For a good look at the true cost of paying for roadways, check out this from The Atlantic.

A report published earlier this year confirms, in tremendous detail, a very basic fact of transportation that’s widely disbelieved: Drivers don’t come close to paying for the costs of the roads they use. Published jointly by the Frontier Group and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, “Who Pays for Roads?” exposes the myth that drivers are covering what they’re using.

The report documents that the amount that road users pay through gas taxes now accounts for less than half of what’s spent to maintain and expand the road system. The resulting shortfall is made up from other sources of tax revenue at the state and local levels, generated by drivers and non-drivers alike. This subsidizing of car ownership costs the typical household about $1,100 per year—over and above the costs of gas taxes, tolls, and other user fees.

And this doesn’t count the cost of damage to neighborhoods by freeways.

PPS: Rock City Times has weighed in on the freeway widening project in Little Rock. Perspicacious as ever (note: satire):


“We love being able to get feedback from our concerned citizens,” AHTD Director Scott Bennett says. “We love to take each one of those very thoughtful ideas and print them out on little pieces of paper. Then we chew those up into carefully crafted spitballs and shoot them through straws at each other in an epic spitball battle. It really is a great team building exercise and shows that we put the public’s ideas to good use.”

Bennett says that overall morale at the highway department has been lacking due to the unusually long stretch at ignoring the public feedback. It has been more than two years since the Broadway Bridge hearing, which resulted in the last major team building exercise.