Sunday, August 28, 2016

Concrete gulch hearing this week

Posted By on Sun, Aug 28, 2016 at 8:15 AM

click to enlarge STOP THE PRESSES: Surprise! Strong Mayor Stodola throws in again with the business establishment. And Cabot commuters. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • STOP THE PRESSES: Surprise! Strong Mayor Stodola throws in again with the business establishment. And Cabot commuters.
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.

Noted: The expected endorsement of the 30 Crossing plan in a planted story in the Sunday Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from Mayor Mark Stodola, County Judge Barry Hyde and North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith of the highway construction lobby's plan. Not exactly a surprise. They've been on board with the Highway Department from the get-go. The plan has some cosmetic improvements from the original but it doesn't waver in essence from the controlling vision of Arkansas highway builders — disproved everywhere else in the country — that if six lanes are good, eight lanes are better and 10 lanes are better still. The evidence is that wider freeways don't solve congestion. They do huge damage to neighborhoods, plus create need for still more spending at the new pressure points they create elsewhere. Evidence-based decision-making is not our strong suit. This is faith-based territory.

Oh well. The fight goes on. Here's a link to an outpouring of opposition to the waiver. I find the comments generally more thoughtful than the move-em-faster tenor of those, a smaller number, writing to support the project

Metroplan's board meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday at 501 W. Markham Street. 

It's worth noting, as Leslie Peacock's reporting shows, that the political leaders are out of step with professional planners at Metroplan on their whole-hearted endorsement of the concrete lobby.

It is also worth noting that the six-lane waiver, long expected to get a favorable vote from Metroplan, isn't the last hurdle. Metroplan must amend its five-year Transportation Improvement Plan and its long-range Imagine Central Arkansas Plan. It can't do that until it sees the 30 Crossing Environmental Assessment details of the project and has examined a system impact analysis now being prepared.

Also: When the environmental assessment is completed, then the planned lawsuit against the project will be filed.

Idle thought: When will the strong mayor ever exert leadership on a tough issue, as opposed to volunteering to lead a parade for his benefactor pals at the chamber of commerce. His claim of having a (trifling in the context) $50,000 pledged from an unidentified family foundation (the Hastings family, which has property along the corridor, is my bet) for amenities alongside the new Berlin Wall of Concrete reminds me of his promise that private money would match the $37 million taxpayers are providing through their burger tax pennies to pay for expansion of the Arkansas Arts Center.  As yet, we're still awaiting that private commitment, though taxpayers are ponying up.

Joe Smith deserves a word, too. You need only look at the existing I-30 corridor in North Little Rock to appreciate what a freeway project can do for a city aesthetically. And he wants more of the same?

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