River Market property owners: Pfooey on SPUI? | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

River Market property owners: Pfooey on SPUI?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 5:26 AM

click to enlarge Ben Browning, with maps of the "split diamond" and "SPUI" exit configurations into downtown Little Rock.
  • Ben Browning, with maps of the "split diamond" and "SPUI" exit configurations into downtown Little Rock.

A meeting this afternoon with River Market district property owners about options for new exits from a 10-lane Interstate 30 into downtown Little Rock — one a SPUI (single point urban interchange) at Second Street and the other a "split diamond" that would remove the Second Street exit altogether and make Fourth Street (for eastbound) and Fifth and Sixth Streets (westbound) the exits into downtown — devolved into a discussion of the Markham-Clinton-Cumberland-La Harpe intersection, which I am going to dub Four Corners because it's shorter. 

Kate East, a designer at AMR Architects; Jeremy Lewno of Bobby's Bike Hike and others expressed frustration that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and the city have not come up with a plan to make Four Corners a safer  intersection. Traffic exiting I-30 headed to Cantrell roars off the ramps and into the intersection. East said the city has told property owners asking for some kind of help that it's the highway department's jurisdiction and there is nothing it can do; the AHTD's Ben Browning said this afternoon that it is a shared responsibility but is a separate issue from the I-30 project and unfunded.

He said the idea of a tunnel to take traffic under the Four Corners was not totally dead though really it is. It would take about $200 million, and Jerry Holder, the Garver engineer who is managing the AHTD's statewide Connect Arkansas building plan, said the highway department would OK it if the city would pay for it. (Browning said the AHTD could contribute something, but he didn't say what.) Holder assured East and others that the city and the AHTD will work together to see what could be done. One idea is speed bumps to slow folks down.

Browning said removing the Second Street exit, in what he called the "split diamond" formation, would help the Four Corners Traffic considerably. Here's a preliminary drawing of the alternative:
click to enlarge second_street.jpg

You see that Second Street and the circular ramps are gone and green space replaces them. Mayor Stodola has been pushing this idea. If you wanted to get to Cumberland from I-30 southbound under this (10-lane) scenario, you'd take a collector-distributor lane from North Little Rock across the river, exit to the Fourth Street C-D and take the Texas turnaround or go east on Fourth, cross under the interstate, take a new road to Third Street and head west on Third to Cumberland. However, Browning said some people will choose to continue to Fifth to go west. There will be stoplight at Fourth.

The green space would be shared by the city and the AHTD under a memorandum of understanding. Because federal funds purchased the land for the interstate, no revenue-generating activities — such as food trucks — could operate there. However, because the highway will be elevated even higher than it is today, the space would be largely uninterrupted parkland affording a view of the Clinton Presidential Center from the west and downtown from the east.

This configuration would require that Fourth, Fifth and Sixth be restriped for three lanes, sacrificing parking. That didn't go over particularly well with the River Market group; Holder said the AHTD wants to hear from folks who would be affected by the loss of parking when it holds its next public hearing on April 26 at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock.

Holder and Browning also presented the SPUI option, seen here:

click to enlarge real_spui.jpg

The SPUI eliminates the circular ramps and brings all exiting traffic, both northbound and southbound, under the interstate to a stoplight. The SPUI does nothing to alleviate the congestion at Four Corners but offers a more direct route to La Harpe, aka state Highway 10, aka Cantrell Road.

The SPUI would have a larger footprint than the Fourth Street "split diamond" alternative: The interstate would be 300 feet wide at Clinton Avenue, or nearly twice the width it is now, with the SPUI; with the split diamond exits, it would be 230 feet. It is now 170 feet wide.

Holder said the AHTD would build the 10-lane (or 8, which he said is still under consideration though no drawings of it have been published) so that if the city wanted to someday build a deck park between Sixth and Ninth streets, as envisioned by architect Tom Fennell in his Convertible plan. That plan envisions bringing I-30 down to grade at Third Street to remove the barrier between east and west that the interstate has caused. Browning, however, said there was not room enough, given the incline of the highway, to come to grade at Third.

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