Mayor on I-30: Don't hurt the flowering of downtown | Arkansas Blog

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mayor on I-30: Don't hurt the flowering of downtown

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 5:21 PM

click to enlarge One option devised by the Highway Department in response to the city's desire to improve traffic at LaHarpe, Cumberland and the River Market district would close Cumberland and send traffic exiting I-30 down a three-lane Second Street.
  • One option devised by the Highway Department in response to the city's desire to improve traffic at LaHarpe, Cumberland and the River Market district would close Cumberland and send traffic exiting I-30 down a three-lane Second Street.

The Connecting Arkansas Program website has posted numerous helpful materials from Thursday's public meeting on the widening of Interstate 30, including the map above, which would close Cumberland as an exit from the interstate and direct traffic to and from I-30 along Second and Fourth streets. It is one of four "Cantrell Exchange" options. 

Mayor Stodola confirmed that the city asked CAP engineers for ideas on ways to improve safety at the Markham-La Harpe-Cumberland-Clinton Avenue nexus and the exit onto Cumberland — which engineers give as the reason for the Second Street redesign. But Stodola said but he's not sure a three-lane Second Street is what he had in mind, especially since he's heard from businesses in the area that they do not like the idea of losing their on-street parking.

Stodola's preference, he said, would be not use Second Street at all but to create entrance and exit ramps at Fourth and Sixth Streets, reversing their directions, and turn the Second Street exit — south of the Main Library — ino a park.

The mayor said he did not think it realistic to not widen I-30 at all, but he said he preferred the 8-lane plan discussed in creating the Planning and Environmental Linkages stage of the project just concluded. "The last thing I went done is anything that will harm the revitalization of downtown" and cut off the east side from the west side.

With yesterday's public meeting, which drew 400 interested citizens according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "people are waking up and paying attention." Stodola also said he thought a missive by   released yesterday, which raised several concerns, made many good points. "The pause button needs to be hit," the mayor said. 

Stodola is not the only city leader who wants the CAP planning to slow down: Downtown developer Jimmy Moses also wants to apply the brakes. "How do you plan an interstate highway system coming through a metropolitan area without a public transit component to it?" he asked.

"The Highway Department doesn't put any emphasis on public transit. ... What I'd like to see is a concerted local planning effort to come up with a thoughtful transit plan for downtown Little Rock that could be compared to what the Highway Department would like to do and work together where [the plans] don’t blend well," Moses said. The process could take months, but the project is the "only the largest expenditure ever in the history of Arkansas" and we don't need to hurry, he said. Moses also said he believes it "critical" that the Downtown Little Rock Partnership lead the process.

Central Arkansas Library System Director Bobby Roberts has a "specific worry": how the ramp off Interstate 30 will impact the Main Library, at Second and Cumberland. An alley off Cumberland between Second and Markham is used for both public and delivery van traffic; no Cumberland, no exit out of the alley. 

Too, the road design could make the library rethink a change it's been considering to make its entrance safer: To move Rock Street in a semicircle east of the tall columns now across the street from the entrance to create a plaza in front of the building. 

The 15-day public comment period ends Nov. 6. You may comment by emailing info@30crossing.com, calling 501-255-1519, or mailing the Connecting Arkansas Program, re: 30 Crossing, 4701 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72118.

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