No moratorium on I-30, Bennett says | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 29, 2015

No moratorium on I-30, Bennett says

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 12:24 PM

click to enlarge The "Cantrell Interchange" that would make Chester Street one way headed south.
  • The "Cantrell Interchange" that would make Chester Street one way headed south.

State Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett has rejected the Downtown Little Rock Partnership's request for a moratorium on the 30 Crossing project to expand I-30 through Little Rock to 10 lanes, writing DLRP Director Gabe Holmstrom today that extending the comment period "is more appropriate" than a moratorium. The comment period, which was to expire Nov. 6, will now be Dec. 4. 

Perhaps Bennett is hoping that the extra 30 days will bring a flood of letters in support of the widening project. So far, support for the project is hard to find.

Bennett also sent a letter to City Manager Bruce Moore notifying him of the extended deadline and said the department would like to present the plan to the City Board of Directors at its meeting next Tuesday, Nov. 3, to clear up "confusion in the public dialogue about a number of the project's proposed elements." City Director Kathy Webb has said she is prepared to offer a resolution expressing opposition to the 10-lane project.
 
Bennett seems to be a prickly sort who really doesn't like Little Rock, judging by his weekend Twitter posts and today's quoted remarks in John Brummett's column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: that the people here "want to force people to move back" to Little Rock by rejecting a 10-lane thruway that would allow people to whiz by town during rush hour.

Hey — bringing people to Little Rock sounds like a good idea to most people. The AHTD, apparently, wants people to be able get the hell out of Dodge as fast as possible. (Bennett lives in Bryant, so he won't be able to speed away until the department widens the western stretch of I-30 through his hometown. However, if the widened section downtown is to function the way the AHTD wants it to, the western stretch of I-30 will have to be widened as well, as a Metroplan spokesman noted last week in describing what it will take to prevent bottlenecks away from the 10-lane segment of interstate.)

Little Rock people do want an escape of a sort. That is, folks who work downtown but live in the central and northwest part of the city — the Heights, Cammack Village, Kingwood and out Highway 10 — would like to be able go home after work. However, here the Highway Department has another idea, one I overlooked in my previous examination of the AHTD's suggestion of turning Second and Fourth streets into one-way, 3-lane state highways to get traffic on and off I-30 at the "Cantrell Interchange." In response to a request from the city to figure out a way to solve the problem of the unsafe intersection at Markham, Clinton Avenue, Cumberland Street and LaHarpe, the AHTD proposes to a) close Cumberland from Markham to Third so there would be no access to LaHarpe from the I-30 exit, b) direct traffic west on Second to State Street, which would become a northbound one-way to LaHarpe and change Chester Street into a southbound one-way from La Harpe to I-630, for traffic coming from the west to downtown.

Wait! You mean you take Chester Street to take La Harpe/Cantrell/Highway 10 home from your downtown office? Well, the latest "Cantrell Interchange" option changes that. The only access to La Harpe, under the Second-Fourth street option, is State Street. That's right. All downtown traffic headed northwest would be funneled down State. Where once there were three entries to LaHarpe, there would be one.

That will keep people downtown, all right. Thankfully, this plan seems dead in the water, thanks to complaints from business people who object to losing on-street parking on Second, etc.

Want to send more comments? You can 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.

ADDITIONALLY FROM MAX: I talked with Bennett this morning. He said it was hard to have a moratorium, or halt to an ongoing project. But he said the department would continue to gather feedback and make changes as needed in the project. He said it all remains open to discussion, including an option of not doing anything at all if consenus can't be reached. He said the department hoped to complete the environmental review process by next summer and then finalize plans for another round of public comments. "We're not shoving this down anyone's throat," he said.

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