The Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods has urged the Metroplan Board of Directors, and particularly local members Mayor Mark Stodola and County Judge Barry Hyde, to fight the Highway Department’s proposal to expand the Interstate 30 freeway to 10 lanes through the heart of the city.
The Metroplan Board figures in the debate on the so-called 30 Crossing project because its regional transportation plan limits freeways to six lanes, rather than the 10 the Highway Department wants. It must get a change in the plan to widen the roadh. (It should be mentioned that the Highway Department has recently attempted a laughable sleight of hand trick by renaming the 10-lane project a project with six freeway lanes and four local traffic lanes. It insists it doesn’t really need the Metroplan waiver since the rebranding of its 10-lane project.)
The Coalition’s president, Kathy Wells, wrote that the Highway Department’s proposal would “destroy” the Imagine Central Arkansas Plan for street improvements. She notes recent statements by Norm Marshall, an independent consultant hired to study the plan, that the highway department proposal would induce new traffic demands and worsen, not improve, traffic flow.
Marshall also informed us that those planned upgrades on major streets, the arterials, such as Roosevelt Rd., also a state highway, are the key to relieving congestion, in his research into other cities and their systems. And he told us federal officials have approved requests to spend money on these streets to relieve interstate congestion – that’s good news!
You and your Metroplan staff had it right all along. Hold to that approach, and do not be swayed. We recognize the state agency remains in place, a partner in highway spending, when Marshall goes home. However, this issue is too important, and the cost is too high, to compromise. We all have agreed decisions now will impact our city for the next 50 years. Those made in the previous generation turned out not to benefit us all as promised.
We agreed the bridge ought to be replaced; that fixes for safety ought to be made; and that the bad connection at Second St. should be changed.
However, the excessive spending on 10 lanes and related features should not be allowed. Especially when the state plans to borrow $100 million and repay it from future federal allocations – already assigned to upgrade Roosevelt Rd. and other arterials.
The Little Rock consultant, Nelson Nygaard, has not even made its report yet. Surely, you owe it to your citizens to delay any action until that, too, comes before you.
The Highway Department plans a hearing on the 10-lane project April 26 in North Little Rock.