THE BIG CONCRETE DITCH: As the city plans to commit to work related to the project, questions persist about the scope of a project a half-billion-dollars short of the money needed to build the I-30 widening project as planned.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott’s
take-charge approach surfaces this morning on a bigger issue than media policy — negotiations between the city and the Arkansas Department of Transportation on an agreement concerning the Big Concrete Ditch project through the heart of Little Rock.

The Ditch is what the highway builders call 30 Crossing, a project to widen I-30 to 10 lanes or more between the south and north terminal interchanges and replace the Arkansas River Bridge. Scott is a former highway commissioner and staunch advocate of the project. Others think it will be damaging to the city, with damaging consequences on the city grid and connecting freeways.

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Back on the City Board agenda next week — in the so-called noncontroversial “consent” agenda portion of the meeting — is a resolution to authorize the mayor to negotiate an agreement with the Arkansas Department of Transportation on design and construction of this project. Problems from my point of view: Scott’s love of the project as designed. The half-BILLION shortfall in available money for the state project. The likelihood that the project when built won’t resemble what’s been proposed in months of public discussions. The size of obligations to the city from an already stretched budget. The question of whether the state and city will commit to the mitigation necessary to keep this from damaging the city, as the original I-30 and I-630 have.

The city agenda says the agreement to be approved incorporates previously negotiated elements in the master plan. But what exactly is the plan now, with money available half of what’s required?


The proposed resolution includes details of the city’s promise of $3.8 million in  enhancement work. That doesn’t count expected needs for a proposed “park” from I-30 to the Clinton Library where an off-ramp now stands and the likely impact on connecting downtown streets to newly configured exits.

I hope there will be some City Board discussion about what the city has learned about how the state plans to proceed with a scaled-down project.