Caution: Freeway planners at work | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Caution: Freeway planners at work

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 7:21 AM

click to enlarge A FLYOVER: A highway engineer suggested still more elevated structure to make a pedestrian crossing at LaHarpe and Markham safer. If some building demolition is necessary to make room, we nominate Chamber of Commerce quarters.
  • A FLYOVER: A highway engineer suggested still more elevated structure to make a pedestrian crossing at LaHarpe and Markham safer. If some building demolition is necessary to make room, we nominate Chamber of Commerce quarters.

More on the Interstate 30 expansion project, which included an idea from the freeway builders last night that might be the nuttiest yet:

*The Kingwood Neighborhood Association has added its opposition to the outline so far advanced by the highway department (and supported primarily by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce in behalf of far-flung commuter cities) to make a 10-lane freeway that further divides downtown.

We are concerned because many Kingwood household residents work downtown. We want a vibrant downtown easily linked to all neighborhoods. Further, Kingwood voters did not vote for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department leadership to devise a bridge plan without adjustments based on our local input.
We oppose the current proposals for the I-30 linkages plan in the downtown Little Rock area because the proposals:

(a) Are damaging to longstanding and vital Little Rock neighborhoods;

(b) Impede access to a vibrant non-profit corridor in Little Rock;

(c) Damage a growing and thriving downtown Little Rock; and,

(d) Further divide Little Rock without positive benefits for the citizens

* The Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods offered ideas:

* Test the safety policy at Cumberland & Pres. Clinton Ave. of adding a Pedestrian All Walk or “Pedestrian Scramble” phase in signals. Cars would halt in all directions, and pedestrians would never cross paths with cars. They could even move diagonally. With so many closings of LaHarpe Blvd for construction, the delay for drivers would be significantly reduced in a test.

* Create an alternative I-30 plan that conforms to the Imagine Central Arkansas plan for growth already in force by the Metroplan Board. This is the main goal of the pending resolution on the Nov. 17 agenda of the Little Rock Board of Directors, which the Coalition fully supports.

* Release findings and conclusions provided by the engineering consultant on changes proposed for I-30. Only a single recommendation came forward from the state; let’s see ALL of these.

* A transit consultant did find that added bus service could aid to relieve congestion on I-30, we understand, but this was shelved, unreleased, since the state does not fund any bus service, nor would the state begin to operate a transit system under today’s policies. Release that study, so the officials concerned with Rock Region Metro and the public may take this into account as all prepare to consider a major expansion of our local bus services now.
Coalition members welcome a vote on expanding the bus service and urge county officials to put a quarter-cent sales tax proposal on the Mar. 1 ballot, so the public may determine the methods to be used in developing our community in future.

* Provide information about the Highway Dept. budget for the proposed I-30 expansion, as well as the Highway Dept. itself, listing funds by the categories of Restricted, Discretionary, and Governed by Law, as well as local, state and federal sources. What loans and payback are allowed? Is this project budget in hand? Could some of this project’s funding be shifted elsewhere?

* Last night's wildest idea, from the Democrat-Gazette coverage:

One option that [engineer Jerry) Holder said they might look at again is to have traffic get on and off the interstate on a flyover to LaHarpe that would carry the traffic above the Markham/Clinton and LaHarpe intersection, which is a major pedestrian crossing between the city's popular River Market entertainment district and hotels and businesses just west of the intersection.

Really, a flyover of Markham/LaHarpe/Clinton? Really? Putting a vibrant pedestrian district under more acres of elevated concrete with traffic thundering overheard is exactly the sort of urban planning you'd expect from engineers who, to date, seem most concerned with getting people who live near Highway Director Scott Bennett's house in Saline County to Little Rock and back as quickly as possible.

But if this crazy flyover idea takes hold, and it's time to decide which buildings must go in the name of moving traffic, I nominate the headquarters of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce at Markham and LaHarpe. They don't give much of a hoot about the quality of life in downtown Little Rock. Let THEM move to Conway, too.

* The senator speaks up.

Sen. Linda Chesterfield spoke in behalf of highway widening last night. We'd heard she'd thrown in with the freeway builders for reasons not entirely clear. She claimed it's because she's interested about commute times and safety in Southwest Little Rock and such. SWLR illustrates precisely the fallacy about thinking solely of freeways to move traffic. I live in Hillcrest. One of my favorite places to eat is a taco wagon near Interstate 30 and Geyer Springs. It's about seven miles. I take city streets — Fair Park, Mabelvale Pike, Geyer Springs. It takes 14 or 15 minutes. I don't take my life in my hands. Low stress, easy driving. Some different thinking is needed. The highway department says it will entertain some. Will it listen?

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