Tom Welch, a retired Iowa Department of Transportation engineer who now lives in Arkansas, has sent to me a copy of a note of comment he has sent to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department about plans to widen Interstate 30 through the middle of Little Rock and North Little Rock, plus replace a river bridge and adjust northern and southern interchanges.

I would suggest all parties involved in the proposed I-30 widening to look into the almost identical improvements of I-235 through Des Moines Iowa which was completed more than 7 years ago . The I-235 consultant identified as their preferred alternative an alternative which had a very substantial widening of I-235. After numerous meetings with interest groups, Cities and the MPO a consensus was developed, among all groups, to develop to build the “Limited Build Alternative” in addition to some improvements to parallel arterial streets.

One less lane in each direction (than in the preferred alternative) was constructed within the Central Business District section of the project . But all safety and traffic operation issues(left hand exits, short ramps and weave sections etc ) were addressed in the final design .

After almost a decade after completion I think everyone, including the DOT, is very pleased with the final design , traffic operations, safety improvements and landscaping etc.

Marty Sankey P.E in Iowa DOT would be the best contact for the I-235 widening project 

I would also suggest you discuss with him all the traffic management programs that were implemented to facilitate traffic DURING the many years of reconstruction.

Rarely can we always build the IDEAL engineering solution these days . More often a “Balanced design” is the better alternative which addresses the concerns of many interest groups -quality of life in neighborhoods , environmental impacts , impacts to other modes of transportation etc.

Highway Director Scott Bennett insisted to me in a lengthy telephone interview yesterday that the Department was not committed at this moment to the 10-lane plan and all the other alterations that have sparked a brush fire of opposition. He insists the talking and planning will continue and that alternatives will be heard. The Second Street link to La Harpe seems likely to be changed (though it was the department’s effort to address Mayor Stodola’s pressure to do something at La Harpe and Cumberland; the River Rail streetcar elimination east of the freeway is not a done deal; assurances are being made about east-west side connectivity, including with currently non-existent provisions for pedestrians and bicycles.)


Welch is only the latest person with expertise to emerge with solid testimony that other cities have found different ways to proceed compared with what Arkansas has proposed so far. In time we’ll see if the highway department is open to alternatives.

Wikipedia notes that the Des Moines project included pedestrian bridges. That stretch of highway also has speed enforcement cameras. Alas, Des Moines also provides another illustration of the California experience. Improve roads  to make it easier to reach suburbs and the suburbs grow and the traffic demand continues to increase and pressure comes for ever more widening. There are alternatives. Failure to widen freeways can, many planners say, induce alternative routes and roadways that are reasonably efficient but less damaging to cities.


There’s a great ongoing discussion on an urban planning website in Des Moines (prompted by I-235 reaching 2020 projected traffic flows five years early) advancing the idea that you never build your way out of congestion. This is exactly the topic that needs some discussion here.