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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Highway Department wins on Broadway Bridge UPDATE 2

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 10:31 AM

FUHGEDDABOUDIT: The bridge as a park? Not going to happen.
  • FUHGEDDABOUDIT: The bridge as a park? Not going to happen.

CONCEPT: Local officials, in a change of position on Broadway Bridge, included this concept of a twin-arch replacement span.
  • CONCEPT: Local officials, in a change of position on Broadway Bridge, included this concept of a twin-arch replacement span.

The Democrat-Gazette's Noel Oman had the jump this morning on Little Rock-North Little Rock capitulation in the fight over the Broadway Bridge.

Mayors Mark Stodola and Pat Hays and County Judge Buddy Villines have decided to settle for a tear-down/replacement approach. There are vague assurances of a shorter disruption period because of pre-fab construction of components, but Downtown Gridlockageddon is in the offing for some significant period.

UPDATE 1: Here's their joint letter and some attached images illustrating the sort of design they could support and pictures of other bridges to show how it would relate to them.

The idea of a new span upriver is forgotten, nothing more now than a lovely dream.

Broad accommodations for bikers and pedestrians? Drastically reduced.

Broadway Bridge as a plaza along the lines of New York's High Line? Put it on the science fiction shelf.

The trade-off? The mayors and County Judge Buddy Villines float a promise of an architecturally pleasing two-arch bridge design. Nothing of this wonder is in view so far, but you can be sure it won't be worthy of Calatrava. If a somewhat architecturally enhanced span costs more, local taxpayers will pay for it, $20 million or so.

Now to the real kicker. This Faustian bargain hints local powers are throwing in with the proposal to increase the state sales tax.

But wait, didn't the mayors say they didn't want to increase taxes to pay for it? How otherwise will these magicians prestidigitate the money? Perhaps, the article suggests, from their share of the proposed state sales tax for highway construction, which includes some payola for local building projects.

It's the old Arkansas gambit. An increased levy on life's necessities for poor folks isn't really a tax. It's just the cost of doing business. And it's so fair because everybody pays the same rate, whether on their beater pickup or their Maserati.

The irony is that the highway construction lobby's plan to fatten its treasury with the sweat of sons of toil is that a big chunk of the new sales tax money will be used to accelerate the suburbanization of Little Rock with improved freeways to the safer climes of Benton, Bryant, Cabot and Conway. So there's some poetic justice in the gridlock the suburban commuters will endure for some period of months as they fight their way to freeways home while the bridge is being built.

RELATED: Louisville is studying whether it really needs more bridges and highways to suburbia, or maybe a different way of doing things. Such a notion would be hooted in Arkansas by cellphone fixated commuters busting tail to get home to Saline County.

OH. And if state voters reject this "free" money to build a warmed-over version of the plan the AHTD had all along for the B'way Bridge? The Three Amigos will just write their check out of a different taxpayers' pocket. There are no free lunches or bridges. I'd be happy to pay by the way, but for something more than a second arch. Socks on a rooster, as Uncle Earl once said.

UPDATE 2: The Metroplan Board of Directors approved, unanimously and without discussion, the Transportation Improvement Plan resolution to move forward with the Broadway Bridge project design. The amendment had been pending with an Oct. 1 deadline for approval of the fiscal year 2013 budget elements of the 2013-2016 TIP. The amendment puts the total project cost at $58 million — $48 million for the bridge, $11.6 million from the state — and says "additional funds to meet local goal of constructing twin arch bridge will be provided based on a cost-sharing agreement with local governments," yet to be worked out.

ALSO ON THE JUMP: A separate letter sent by Mayor Mark Stodola and he commented further in a note to me.

Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department
PO Box 2261
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203


Dear Sirs:

Please register my comments below concerning the replacement of the current Broadway Bridge over the Arkansas River connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock.

As mayor of the Capital City, I believe it is important to recognize that a new bridge in its current location will long outlast nearly everyone alive today. This is why the bridge should be a lasting vision of the future of central Arkansas in both function and form. The proposals submitted to the public provide several alternatives which, while perhaps functional, sacrifice the long term vision of a bridge which brings together the major commerce centers in central Arkansas. In fact, 34% of the state’s GDP comes from the Little Rock-North Little Rock metropolitan area. This justifies a collaborative effort between the AHTD and local authorities on finding the funding necessary to realize the long term vision which the bridge should reflect in both function and form as proposed by myself, Pulaski County Judge F.G. Villines and Mayor Pat Hays. Together we have collectively authored a letter that expresses our desire on how to realize that vision in both function and form with a twin arch truss bridge over the Arkansas River. We also urge that the bridge be built with a 20 foot pedestrian/bicycle way recognizing the increased demand for these alternate forms of transportation.

From the renderings AHTD provided, I cannot agree to any form of a bridge constructed to the west of the existing bridge which would require that the bridge snake back into the existing Broadway Bridge R-O-W. This “snake bridge” would require a steep angle curvature as it descends down into the existing R-O-W for alignment raising additional and unnecessary safety concerns as the span descends quickly toward its intersection with Markham St. It also lacks any aesthetic qualities and compromises the city’s use of its own property and air rights.
It is our understanding that the twin arch truss bridge components can be constructed off site and moved into place when complete which will help in reducing the time the bridge will be unavailable to the traveling public. I would urge the AHTD to expedite construction and thereby minimize any delay. The new bridge envisioned by our recommendation in the same location as the old one should not be compromised by the relatively short term inconvenience caused by closing the current bridge for construction. Thank you.

Most sincerely,

Mark Stodola
Mayor
City of Little Rock

FROM THE MAYOR'S E-MAIL:

My letter is primarily to memorialize previous verbal comments I have made based on the public hearing that AHTD held where they showed a variety of options. Yesterday was the last day to make comments which are part of the formal record made available the Federal Highway Administration. Mayor Hays sent a similar letter yesterday as well. I wanted to be sure to go on record opposing the “snake bridge” concept which is one of the options proffered. Agreement on function and form has been made and the funding options are still being explored. What is ultimately built will be based on funding. Judge Villines maintains it can be found without a local sales tax increase. I have advised him of our local commitments which will not be sacrificed. The form of the bridge, if not iconic, will be signature and appropriate.

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