Saturday, October 31, 2015

UPDATE: City Board moves meeting for I-30 discussion

Posted By on Sat, Oct 31, 2015 at 7:21 AM

DISCUSSION COMING: This is how a widened Interstate 30 is currently planned to look. The Highway Department will address rising criticism at a City Board meeting Tuesday.
  • DISCUSSION COMING: This is how a widened Interstate 30 is currently planned to look. The Highway Department will address rising criticism at a City Board meeting Tuesday.
The Little Rock City Board will meet two places Tuesday night — at 5 p.m. at City Hall for the normal meeting and then at 7 p.m. at the Clinton Presidential Center to hear Arkansas Highway Director Scott Bennett discuss the controversial plan to expand Interstate 30 through Little Rock.

The move is to allow for greater attendance. Bennett will be joined by Jerry Holder of the Garver engineering firm, which has a big contract for a sales-tax financed Arkansas road construction program. He has been leading much of the public discussion — too much in favor of the Highway Department's expansive plans for the liking of many who have multiple objections to the work.

A reader this morning proposes this question for the public hearing. My own efforts at getting an answer to this always seem to boil down to better traffic flow at rush hour and safety, which isn't exactly a complete answer. The financial adviser's question:

People like me make a living assisting business people when they are faced with difficult financial decisions. We try to get them to see the cost/benefit trade offs; not only in the short term, but more importantly in the long term.

I have not seen anything published so far that shows the financial benefit of the planned expansions of the I-30 that would justify the cost. There would have to be some kind of calculation that would account for the cost savings for the extra speed that people who are traversing the area and not stopping would save in money.

We have not been enlightened as to how does the government body that is expending the money justify the expense.

Maybe they think the residents of our county would also achieve some cost benefit, but I don't see it nor have I been advised of it.

I'd make it more specific. What are the benefits to Little Rock and North Little Rock for five years of construction disruption, degradation of adjacent property, heightened difficulties in east-west travel, greater air pollution, further encouragement of suburbanization, new barriers to pedestrian, bike and mass transit travel.

Recent blog posts on the subject have included some great comments with readers conversant in urban and highway planning. An additional question might be:

Could you start over with a full consideration of ALL alternatives, beginning with a relocation of the freeway. (Bennett told me an alternative river crossing was briefly considered in the beginning, but deemed impractical.)

PS ON CITY BOARD: I noticed the Board seems likely to speedily approve — with no objections from anyone — establishment of a medical clinic in the Little Rock Port area on Lindsey Road. You'll remember that any potential use of nearby land by an Indian tribe for anything but industrial uses has been described as unsuitable by port and other city officials. The Port has demanded an agreement from the Quapaws not to use its land for any non-conforming use. Don't get me wrong. Bring on the medical clinic. Or a hotel. Or a restaurant. Or a casino. Or a museum. Or whatever private property owners wish to do with their land. Industrial is the lowest zoning classification. Anything else is better. I'm just noting the double standard at work and a city's effort at "taking" from the Indians full use of their ancestral land.

UPDATE: Nickolas Jovanovic, an associate professor at UALR, steps up with some useful information on assessing cost and benefits in this project:

The benefit-cost ratio for an infrastructure project is usually computed as (B-D)/C, where:
B = the annual worth of benefits to the general public
D = the annual worth of disbenefits to the general public
C = the annual worth of costs to the government
A project is deemed to be viable if the ratio is greater than one, i.e., the benefits outweigh the costs.

The costs in the denominator are usually straightforward: costs of acquiring property through purchase or via eminent domain, design costs, construction costs, planned maintenance costs, projected repair costs, etc.

The benefits in the numerator are almost always much less straightforward. For a highway- or bridge-widening project, the most common benefit is reduced travel time for the general public. If the project allows 100.000 vehicles/day to reduce their travel time by 5 minutes, that's 500,000 minutes of time savings. How much is that worth? Well, it might mean a little less pollution (less idling in stop-and-go traffic backups). It could also mean better fuel efficiency (good for drivers and the environment) and fewer gallons of gas sold (bad for gas station owners and good for the environment).

Of course, the main argument is that time is money, and so the time savings must have an economic benefit. However, there is little evidence for this. For most people, their personal time means a lot to them, but not to anyone else, and so there is little, if any, economic benefit by saving 5 minutes on the way to work and another 5 minutes going home. For truckers that are paid my the mile, then there is an actual economic benefit to them if average speeds can be improved (but they can also avoid Little Rock altogether by using I-440).

The disbenefits in the numerator are equally less straightforward. Many disbenefits can be omitted from the ratio due to a lack of information. However, this is where Little Rock and North Little Rock really need to step up and be heard. What is the financial disbenefit associated with cutting off trolley service to the east, where a new development anchored by Cromwell Architects Engineers will be built adjacent to Heifer International and the Clinton Presidential Park? What are the disbenefits for pedestrians? for bicyclists? for those who live in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock? for businesses in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock? for property owners whose land will be taken? for increased air pollution due to increased traffic through the heart of the city? for the lack of mass transit alternatives on the bridge? Etc.

If asked, Garver and AHTD will undoubtedly share an analysis that produces a benefit-cost ratio greater than one and justifies the project. The city and regional planners and agencies (Little Rock and NLR Public Works, Pulaski County Public Works, Rock Region METRO, Metroplan, etc.) need to produce a benefit-cost ratio that includes all of the negative effects and realistically assesses the actual benefits of the project.

Beyond a benefit-cost ratio analysis, environmental impact assessments (EIA) and social impact assessments (SIA) could be performed. The purpose of these assessments is to determine the effects of a project on the natural environment and on society as a whole. In some places, projects cannot move forward unless these assessments are performed in a way that is broadly inclusive and transparent to ensure that all positive and negative effects have been taken into account.

Agencies and groups involved in transportation planning also need to include plans for multimodal urban transportation in their written documents, even if there is no projected source of funding because AHTD uses those written documents when they plan their projects. You can't totally blame 30 Crossing on AHTD and Garver if none of the other agencies and groups responsible for planning have included a vision for multimodal and intermodal transportation in their official written documents. If there are plans that include multimodal and intermodal transportation planning for downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock, then those should be immediately shared with the public and with AHTD and Garver.

Finally, as the creator of a new civil and construction engineering program at UALR, some time ago, I requested permission to hire a faculty member with expertise and experience in "multimodal, urban transportation planning." Such a person could be a tremendous asset for central Arkansas.

Large infrastructure projects are, not only about responding to the current needs of society, but also about (quite literally) shaping society for the future. Infrastructure lasts for decades, so this is always true, whether or not people are aware of it when projects are approved.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Speaking of...

  • City proposes more work for consultant on I-30 project

    November 5, 2016
    The Little Rock City Board agenda meeting this week includes a city staff recommendation for a $50,000 contract with the consulting firm Nelson Nygaard to continue to consult on the proposed 30 Crossing project to widen Interstate 30 through the middle of Little Rock. /more/
  • Another city rejects a concrete ditch

    November 2, 2016
    While Little Rock city fathers are intent on widening the Interstate 30 concrete ditch that slices through the heart of town, dividing and blighting neighborhoods, other cities are going in a different direction. /more/
  • Freeway fires: A lesson in Charlotte for Little Rock

    September 23, 2016
    Here's a deep essay from Think Progress on how freeways and suburbanization segregated Charlotte neighborhoods and helped create the social and racial divide that exploded in that city this week. Yes, of course, I'm thinking about a parallel with the push by the white business establishment in Little Rock for ever wider freeways. /more/
  • Judge Griffen smacks black chief, city manager in city cop residency debate

    September 8, 2016
    Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who spoke Tuesday in favor of a defeated proposal to require Little Rock police to live in the city, has written on his blog about the vote, critically as you might imagine. /more/
  • UPDATE: Metroplan signs off on waiver for Concrete Gulch

    August 31, 2016
    UPDATE: The Metroplan board has voted with scant opposition to waive the existing six-lane limit on area freeways so that the highway department may build a 10-lane concrete gulch through the heart of Little Rock. Leslie Newell Peacock will be back with more after a while. A grassroots group presented spirited opposition, all ignored. /more/
  • The Concrete Gulch Chronicles

    August 29, 2016
    In alternate universes, such as booming Vancouver, city leaders don't think ever wider freeways are the answer to traffic congestion. But what do they know, right Mayor Stodola? /more/
  • Concrete gulch hearing this week

    August 28, 2016
    Metroplan will vote Wednesday on a waiver of the six-lane freeway limit in its regional transportation plan to remove one obstacle to building a huge concrete gulch through the center of Little Rock — 10 lanes of freeway and even more concrete in some spots — to hasten the movement of traffic to and from suburbs to the detriment of quality of life in the city. Big surprise: the business establishment's drum major Mayor Mark Stodola, wants to pour the concrete. /more/
  • Metroplan advisory panel says no to waiver of six-lane limit

    August 24, 2016
    By a vote of 20-3, Metroplan's Regional Planning Advisory Committee today voted against lifting the Central Arkansas transit plan's limit of six through-lanes on interstates to accommodate the state highway department's plan to widen Interstate 30. /more/
  • Metroplan advisers put off vote on AHTD's request for 6-lane waiver: Update

    July 20, 2016
    The council that advises Metroplan's board of directors voted today to wait until a 30-day public comment period has passed before deciding whether to grant the state highway department a waiver of the planning agency's six-lane limit on freeway through lanes. The panel, the Regional Planning Advisory Council, will meet Aug. 24 to consider the comments. That is the day after the public comment period, which runs July 24 to Aug. 23. /more/
  • Another City Board race takes shape

    July 19, 2016
    Clayton Johnson, a high school teacher who's long taken an interest in City Hall affairs, says he's firmed up plans to run against incumbent Gene Fortson for the at-large Postion 9 seat on the Little Rock City Board of Directors. /more/
  • More »

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Trump proposes an unconstitutional ban on flag burning, revoking citizenship

    Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, this morning made a public statement, via Twitter, that the flag burning should be disallowed by law: "there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Most Viewed

  • Bills filed to end 'fair dismissal' process for teachers in takeover districts and principals statewide

    Reps. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs) and Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) have filed two bills aimed at rolling back the labor law that establishes due process for firing teachers and certain administrators in Arkansas.
  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The Friday line and video wrapup

    • Cato, thanks. mea culpa. obviously, i did not do a careful fact check. your correction…

    • on December 3, 2016
  • Re: The Friday line and video wrapup

    • "Remember, the last time one party held both houses of congress and the white house…

    • on December 3, 2016
  • Re: The Friday line and video wrapup

    • Gyl, you omitted the part about going back to the 1920s, with the unregulated economic…

    • on December 3, 2016



© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation