'How to decimate a city' — a big freeway | Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 20, 2015

'How to decimate a city' — a big freeway

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 1:04 PM

click to enlarge atlantic.jpg

Reporting from around the U.S. continues to illustrate the tunnel visioin of the Arkansas highway department and construction boosters like the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and Vice Mayor Lance Hines in advocating ever wider freeways through the heart of Little Rock, plus widening freeways to help people get the hell out of here faster.

The latest is The Atlantic, with an in-depth look at crumbling Syracuse, N.Y. My headline is taken from the article, which begins:

Syracuse thought that by building a giant highway in the middle of town it could become an economic powerhouse. Instead, it got a bad bout of white flight and the worst slum problem in America.

In Syracuse, Interstate 81 cuts through the heart of the city, as I-30 cuts a poisonous gash through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. The description of neighborhoods along the elevated highway is bleak. Poverty and crime and decay. The article traces the decay to the decision to disrupt established neighborhoods with the freeway construction in the 1950s. It happened here, too, and we repeated the mistake with Interstate 630. In Syracuse, as here, whites have fled to the suburgs. And today, unbelievably, Lance Hines, the vice mayor of a city with a damaged school district (which the vice mayor shuns) says his main concern is helping people get to and from those suburbs quickly, no matter the cost to downtown.

In Syracuse, sprawl continues and they kept building more roads to help, making population pockets like Little Rock pay disproportionately for their own demise.

In Syracuse, the county executive wants to stop using the money of the county to send roads, sewers and other services (here we supply water without which the suburbs would be hard-pressed to grow) to outlying areas. In Little Rock, the vice mayor apparently thinks we haven't  done enough damage to ourselves yet. Strategies for improvement are hard to come by in Syracuse, as here.

But wait: Interstate 81 is nearing the end of its useful life.  The article concludes (with references that Vice Mayor Hines, Chamber CEO Jay Chesshir and Highway Department Director Scott Bennett would sneer at):

The elevated highway will almost certainly need to be torn down, because the overpass[think Arkansas River bridge] is narrower than current federal highway rules allow. Proposals include building a tunnel under the city, turning the road into a boulevard that runs through the city, and rebuilding the highway in a sunken corridor. Businesses and residents in the suburbs are vociferously opposed to any option that doesn’t include rebuilding the highway. But a group of planners and residents called Rethink 81 are urging the region to think more imaginatively about planning decisions that will have a long-term effect on the community. I-81 should never have been built, they say, and the city should not make a similar mistake again.

“We believe that too much of the city was sacrificed to make way for I-81 in the 1960s,” the group says, in a proposal. “Whatever option is chosen, it must not encroach further on the city or require the removal of even more of the city’s infrastructure and historic assets.”

The city now has a chance to revisit its past mistakes, or to do things again, almost exactly as it did before.

Hines, the chamber and Bennett don't even want to THINK about alternatives, much less actually build them.

I've been to Syracuse. We're not there. Yet.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault weapon open line

    The open line. And report of the arrest of a man with an AR-15 who threatened to shoot people at a Springdale business.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • A primary challenger for Rep. Laurie Rushing

    Blue Hog Report has some news on a Republican primary challenge of an incumbent legislator, Rep. Laurie Rushing, by Ernie Hinz of Hot Springs.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • A common-sense gun measure draws no sponsors from Arkansas

    Republicans, including at least one from Arkansas, are talking about repealing the Dickey Amendment which prohibits gun research from a public health perspective. But none of them are yet willing to DO anything about it.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation