Tom Fennell, the architect who proposed that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and the city of Little Rock consider working toward converting Interstate 30 downtown to a boulevard, is working on a design to help the road agency better envision the plan, which it shot down last week in its efforts to show that only a 10-lane I-30 will answer Little Rock’s traffic needs.
In its new FAQ section on the “30 Crossing” page, the AHTD says the boulevard couldn’t handle “even half” the I-30 traffic and that vehicle miles traveled would have to decline by 50 percent for the boulevard idea to work.
“Cheap shot,” Fennell says. His boulevard design “was always 20 to 30 years out, not a replacement for the short term.” The propsal “always depended on a lot of things happening, including transit and beefing up arterials,” things the highway department says it doesn’t do. As he wrote in his “Plan B Solution”:
Because of the expected decline in VMT (contrary to AHTD statements), there would be a point in the future when the I-30 Corridor in downtown could be converted to a wide boulevard on-grade with the surrounding city, with traffic lights every third city block. The boulevard would be on-grade and would allow for bike and greenway trails, bus lanes and exceptional opportunities for commercial and residential development with new corner and frontage property.
The AHTD also claims that the boulevard would “actually have a negative impact” on walking and biking. “While the Department’s proposed alternatives would keep pedestrians and bicyclists separated from the main traffic flow, the boulevard would place these users directly in conflict with vehicular traffic” and “pedestrians will also be less likely to cross the corridor because of the risk of crossing at-grade.”
Yes, 10-lane interstates do preclude bicycle and pedestrian traffic, no argument there. But consider boulevards elsewhere, like the Champs Elysees. This boulevard is actually 10 lanes and has a bike lane and yet, sacre bleu! Parisians dare cross it.
Fennell will present his “convertible plan” at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Capitol View Stifft Station Resource Center, 2715 W. 7th St. The design contemplates a freeway that can be converted into a boulevard in the future “and has some interesting components in it,” he said.
Fennell said the boulevard plan “was a future vision and it requires a lot of cooperation by the city and highway department and local planners. In my view this has been a great conversation and there are still people to be heard from, including the mayor and [newly hired] city planner — we haven’t heard what they say yet. There could be some great ideas in that.” Fennell said transportation planning ought to be “an ongoing process to find the best solution.” He believes his plan “would please all sides, including the highway department if they were inclined to consider alternatives.”
Fennell will also talk about the idea of hiring an independent analyst to look at all the information gathered to date on traffic and future growth at tomorrow night’s meeting.