Sunday, December 6, 2015

Why must Little Rock suffer from Interstate 30? Look at Northwest Arkansas. Also: Talk of a tunnel in LR

Posted By on Sun, Dec 6, 2015 at 8:21 AM

click to enlarge BYPASSES: I-49 runs on the edge of the core booming cities of Northwest Arkansas.
  • BYPASSES: I-49 runs on the edge of the core booming cities of Northwest Arkansas.
An article by Chris Bahn in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about development along Interstate 49 in Springdale reminded me of a point I've wanted to make:

The fastest growing region — and cities in Arkansas — share something that Little Rock residents should envy and try to emulate:

The main interstate artery in Northwest Arkansas does NOT pass through the hearts of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers or Bentonville. Nor, do I think, would they want it to do so. Imagine the ambience of Fayetteville's square or the booming core of artsy Bentonville with pounding traffic from a 10-lane freeway within view and earshot?

The Arkansas highway department thinks it's GOOD to pour still more concrete through he heart of Little Rock and further build walls between have- and have-not neighborhoods rather than move traffic around the periphery.

Maybe if we had more Republicans here we could turn this train around.

You think NWA was helped or hurt by routing the freeway some distance from the hearts of the cities it serves?

FOR DREAMERS ONLY: Here's one way to build healthier more livable cities. Do as Helsinki did and build a "human highway" for bikes and pedestrians through the heart of town. You can quit laughing now, Scott Bennett. I know nobody in a million years would expect the Arkansas freeway department to spend any meaningful amount on anything but moving cars. The article I linked also talks about mass transit, adding green space and other socialistic ideas that would be similarly sneered at in Arkansas. As I say, for dreamers only.

PS: Skip Rutherford, the Clinton School dean, tweeted recently this idea under discussion on the I-30 project:

Now apparently in I-30 off-ramp dicsussion: a tunnel under Clinton Avenue coming out near @lrchamber parking lot. 

I hear elsewhere that this option is being priced. But it likely would require a contribution of money from ever-flush Little Rock. See, the Highway Department only has money to wreck the city with a wider freeway and Berlin Wall between neighborhoods. City fathers are willing to take the raping, as long as a little something is done about a busy intersection at Clinton Avenue and La Harpe. To make River Market Mayor Dean Kumpuris and not-so-strong Mayor Mark Stodola happy, the highway department came up with a cockamamie plan to close the intersection and route traffic down Second Street as an alternate to get suburban commuters to the Dillard headquarters if Clinton/LaHarpe were to be closed. But the Stephens empire doesn't want all that traffic on Second Street next to its HQ, so they are looking for another fix.

But  ..... if the city wants it, they must pay for it, the freeway nabob from Saline County apparently has decreed. Any discussion of obviously better alternatives — an entrance to the city from Sixth Street or Broadway via I-630 and de-emphasizing the center city as I-30's route through town — make too much sense to get serious consideration from the state or city "leaders" like Vice Mayor Lance Hines. They think the freeway exists solely to move suburbanites in and out of Little Rock (preferably to jobs with free parking and skyway connections to offices so the commuters need not touch ground in dangerous Little Rock) as quickly as possible. Other collateral damage is merely the price of deciding to live as well as work in Little Rock. Don't like it? Move to the Bryant area like Bennett did

I confess to some amusement at a new plan that might screw with the parking lot of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has pushed the most disruptive highway construction plan possible because it cares more about the region than the city in which it is located.

PPS — The Clinton Library/President Center/Park/School's lack of concern about the freeway plan (as long as they get some more parkland out of it and improved visibility) is a growing irritant. They threw in wholeheartedly with the original plan to sacrifice the trolley line east of I-30 and other short-sighted notions that were bad for their side of the freeway (bad enough that it has prompted eStem Charter School to give serious thought to reconsidering plans to build a new school over there.)

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