The Marshall plan: Rethink 30-Crossing | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Marshall plan: Rethink 30-Crossing

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 6:01 PM

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Norm Marshall of Smart Mobility Inc. will put the lie to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's "6-Lane plus 4 C/D lane" description of the 30-Crossing project to widen Interstate 30 tonight, first when he presents the results of his analysis of the AHTD plan to the City Board of Directors at 6 p.m. and again to to the public at First United Methodist Church at 7 p.m. 

Also on the board agenda is an amended resolution introduced by Directors Kathy Webb and Ken Richardson (and deferred four times) to seek an analysis of issues raised by the 30 Crossing plan.

Marshall, who has worked on urban plans for Baltimore, Chicago, Envision Central Texas and other clients, will also show how AHTD's plans for widening I-30 the project will create in the future serious traffic jams in downtown Little Rock during peak drive times.

The report comes on the heels of Metroplan's release yesterday of 263 pages of public comments it has received on the widening project. The comments provide a neat snapshot of who wants the concrete gulch and who doesn't. Opposition to the I-30 widening as now envisioned comes, almost without exception, from downtown residents and other Little Rock residents concerned what a big, fat freeway will do to downtown revitalization. Most of these letters contain detailed lists of objections — including harming the revitalization of Main Street — with personal asides about why the live where they do and the quality of life they hope to maintain. Supporters of the AHTD, on the other hand, come entirely from business interests, using form letters, one apparently drafted by the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and the other by the Little Rock chamber, and usually sent on their businesses' letterhead.

So far, Metroplan has received 61 comments opposed to the I-30 project, 2 that support Metroplan's transportation planning with the exception of I-30 widening, 5 expressing concern over the I-30 project, 52 opposed to Metroplan's transportation planning based on the inclusion of I-30, 73 in favor of amending Metroplan's transportation planning to allow the I-30 project, and 1 technical comment by the AHTD. That adds up to 115 opposed, 5 concerned and 73 for.

Marshall's research was attached to one of the comments sent to Metroplan in opposition to the widening. Marshall, who was hired by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, writes the bridge would be the third widest bridge in America. 

Marshall says the highway department's own videos and drawings of 30 Crossing show 12 lanes, not 10, and 15 in parts of Little Rock (see figures 1 and 2 above), despite the highway department's characterization of them. He said the drawings do not correspond to the project as described in the PEL (Planning and Environmental Linkages) study.
AHTD is proposing that the existing I-30 bridge be replaced with a 12-lane bridge, divided into 3 mainline freeway lanes and 3 collector/distribution lanes in each direction (Figure 1). As shown in Figure 2, the alternative has a cross section of from 12 to 15 lanes in the City of Little Rock. AHTD describes the alternative this way:
The 6-Lane with Collector/Distributor Lanes alternative (previously called the PEL Recommendation 10-Lane with Downtown C/D) has been renamed to better clarify the
scope of the alternative and reduce misconception. This alternative has three through lanes in each direction with two additional lanes serving as decision lanes that feed into Collector/Distributor lanes across the River Bridge in the downtown area. 

In fact, the 12-Lane Bridge Alternative has no segments with as few as 10 lanes in the City of Little Rock. It is not the same as the 10-Lane C/D alternative described in the PEL Report (see Figure 3). The renaming has not reduced misconception; it has increased misconception.

Marshall also addresses the downtown jam that induced traffic (which no one argues will not occur) the widened interstate, using the "split diamond" configuration that removes the exits at Second Street, will cause in the future.

Increasing I-30 traffic would have serious impacts on downtown Little Rock traffic. In particular, during the afternoon peak hour, the model shows that two large streams of traffic would converge: 1) traffic heading for the 4th street ramp onto I-30, and 2) traffic heading for the Broadway Street Bridge. These streams would intersect at the Broadway and 4th Street intersection and cause long traffic backups to the west and south (see Figure 6).

This is a serious traffic issue that AHTD has not identified, has not disclosed, and certainly has not mitigated. In fact, any mitigation possible would involve undesirable widening of City streets.
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Marshall concludes that the 12-lane bridge would induce traffic to the extent that by 2040, "there would be no improvement over regional congestion over doing nothing at all."

Marshall suggests the city convert I-30 to a slower-speed boulevard to encourage traffic to avoid downtown and that a Chester Street bridge be constructed to "further spread traffic across the street grid."

Marshall says the models AHTD used did not take into account certain things: 

We did not introduce modeling into this discussion. When AHTD said that an 8-lane bridge alternative would be inadequate, it was basing its conclusion on modeling. When AHTD said that 10 general purpose lanes would be inadequate, it was basing its conclusion on modeling. As the 10-lane C/D plan has morphed into a 12+ lane alternative (which AHTD has not disclosed properly), it has based its proposal on modeling. If AHTD challenges our work, it will be relying on its models.

The question is not whether modeling should be used or not, but whether the modeling is credible. As discussed in our Phase 1 report, AHTD’s computer modeling fails to account completely for:

*The shift in auto and truck traffic from I-440 and other routes to I-30;

*The shift in number of trips from off-peak times to peak travel;

*The increase in congestion and resulting bottlenecks in downtown ramp areas.

In addition, the AHTD modeling is myopic as is illustrated in Figure 15. It does not account for shifts among the bridges. It does not consider the impacts of induced travel outside the narrow study area. It does not consider traffic impacts in downtown Little Rock outside the narrow study area.

Our modeling accounts for induced travel, shifts among the bridges, and traffic impacts outside the study area.
Marshall's report also includes other freeway removals and conversions,  economics and safety.

Consultants from Nelson\Nygaard, hired by the city to "articulate a core set of community-driven goals for Downtown," as the scope of work puts it, will report their analysis at 5 p.m. Monday, May 23, likely at City Hall. at the Centre at University Park, west of University and 12th Street (the rebuilt Leisure Center).

UPDATE: Marshall met antagonistic questioning from the City Board. Notes from our intern Tom Coulter who was there:

After Marshall presented his qualification, research and alternative proposal, he was interrogated pretty intensely, mainly by Lance Hines and Dean Kumpuris. Here are some quotes:

From Hines:  “Why haven’t you met with the Highway Department?” “You don’t like their data but they use the same data that Imagine Arkansas uses? You can answer or not. Even though both models were the same?” To which Marshall responded, "You keep saying that, my answer is no." He said he used much of the same data but different models. Hines continued: “If it’s [a Chester Street bridge] not in our master street plan the Highway Department will not look at it,” to which Marshall responded "Yes, but that can be amended," and multiple people in the crowd shouted, "Tonight!" Hines discussed the traffic improvements to West Little Rock from I630 construction and said people of WLR have enjoyed it during and after construction. Many yells from the crowd “No we don’t!” Hines continued on Marshall's idea: "Basically, they’re diverting the traffic pattern from downtown back to us” “The traffic’s gotta go somewhere” “I don’t buy that we see declining growth” referring to the traffic that goes away according to Marshall’s model, Hines sarcastically called it “Magic”

Quotes From Kumpuris: “If I’m working, I think that being able to get to work is important” “I don’t understand how what you want to do isn’t going to kill Little Rock” He claimed multiple times that Marshall's model would add 20-30 minutes to commute for people crossing into downtown, then said “Let’s go to the next point, we’ll just have to disagree on this one” “You’re gonna leave here tomorrow and fly back some place else, and I’m going to live here” “If you had been at the meeting last week, the Highway Department discussed how you would disperse the traffic. Build it and disperse the traffic in the inner-city grid” “Expand the streets, use the grid, and make it work better” “We need to have four podiums up here, ask everyone the same question, and see the responses we get” Referenced Metrpkan's Jim McKenzie and his model multiple times. “Looking at the absolute numbers… I don’t understand how you’re going to take care of that and how it’s not going to kill what I’ve been building up” Marshall stated that transit does not work well when a region is freeway dominant. Kumpuris: “You’re the expert on urban traffic, and I find it a little funny that there’s not a word you said today about public transit” It’s like me as a doctor saying we need to do X,Y and Z but we can’t do Z!” “We’ve got another consultant coming next week that is going to pontificate on the same thing”

From Doris Wright: “It sounds great. Do you know of any highways that have been taken out in Arkansas?” Marshall said no. “So, if we wanted to do that, is that something the Highway Department would go along with?” “Whose responsibility would it be to put in the boulevard: Little Rock or Highway Department? Seems like it may be kinda hard to move the needle on something like that."

From Erma Hendrix: “Do you anticipate meeting with the Highway Department soon?” Marshall said he’s not really sure.

From Gene Fortson: “It appears to me a lot of the congestion you’re talking about is just being transferred to other parts of the city”

From Kathy Webb: “I don’t get how people can say if having a boulevard is social engineering, but widening the interstate is not”

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