Highway Department need not be the last word on freeway widening in Little Rock | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 13, 2016

Highway Department need not be the last word on freeway widening in Little Rock

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 7:04 AM

ALTERNATIVES: There are other ways to move traffic through Little Rock than this river of concrete. A lawsuit in Birmingham challenges a similar project.
  • ALTERNATIVES: There are other ways to move traffic through Little Rock than this river of concrete. A lawsuit in Birmingham challenges a similar project.
We've mentioned before the remarkable similarity between a freeway widening project proposed in Birmingham with the 30 Crossing concrete gulch proposed for Little Rock. News from Alabama shows that an arrogant Highway Department and consensus among power brokers brought to heel by such political power need not be the last word on a damaging freeway project.

From an Alabama newspaper news on a lawsuit aimed at stopping the 10-lane project (same as 30 Crossing in Little Rock) in Birmingham:

The lawsuit asks that a judge order ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to take a "hard look" to all reasonable alternatives to the current project and conduct a new environmental assessment that includes a look at the economic impact it could have on Birmingham's recently revived downtown. The plan calls for construction of an elevated 10-lane highway – expanded from six lanes – and remove all but one exit, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to declare that ALDOT and FHWA violated National Environmental Policy Act by not looking at the potential economic impacts.

The Federal Highway Administration denied in its response the allegation that the I-59/20 Improvement Project will cause "significant negative socioeconomic impacts." They also deny that ALDOT ignored any issue or violated any law, or that the project's Environmental Assessment (the EA) was "defective."

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham by attorneys for Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin; Birmingham Board of Education President Randall Woodfin; James Clark, a UAB employee who owns residential and rental property within a mile of the project; four other residents; and Darrell O'Quinn, executive director of Move I 20/59 and president of the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board.
The environmental review process hasn't begun in Little Rock. History says such reviews are often shoddy in Arkansas. Lawyers will be watching.

Note: The motive force for the project to pave over Birmingham is the same as in Little Rock — the purported need to replace a deficient bridge. Note that the projected cost there has escalated. A powerful ingredient in Birmingham has been the unwillingness of the local government to roll over. Alas, from the mayor to city board members who believe the needs of Cabot commuters are more important than those of residents (think Lance Hines) our city leaders seem ready to roll over belly up for scratching by the highway demigods.

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