30 Crossing: There's a better way than widening the downtown freeway | Arkansas Blog

Monday, May 15, 2017

30 Crossing: There's a better way than widening the downtown freeway

Posted By on Mon, May 15, 2017 at 9:47 AM

click to enlarge KNOTTY PROBLEM: More isn't necessarily better when it comes to freeways. - FACEBOOK POST
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  • KNOTTY PROBLEM: More isn't necessarily better when it comes to freeways.

has a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Pulaski Tech's campus center in North Little Rock on amendments to its long-range transportation plan to include the freeway widening sought by the Highway Departments' 30 Crossing project in downtown Little Rock and the inevitable new stress it will place on other roads in the region.

Resistance continues to the $600-million-plus concrete gulch. Tom Fennell, an architect who's been working in the interest of different approaches to moving traffic, wrote this in advance of Wednesday's hearing:

A Big Mistake vs. A Better Way

By Tom Fennell

As AHTD continues to push their giant ten-lane freeway through downtown Little Rock we have to wonder why? With the credible predictions of declining car ownership and autonomous vehicles leading to less traffic, how does AHTD modeling show increasing demand for more freeway capacity?

AHTD has convinced our mayors and county judges that it is both necessary and inevitable that we need to spend $3-4 billion to solve a non-existent problem. More to the point, an AHTD goal is to spend this enormous sum to fulfill their commitment to contractors, suppliers and bedroom communities in an outdated vision of suburban utopia.

The ‘big mistake’ happened early on, when engineers decided, for you, that ramming a giant freeway through downtown Little Rock was better than routing commuter traffic around the city in a belt system of interstates. Once the engineers were on this bone, there has been no sign that they are going to let go. I observed after the last public comment meeting (a year and a half ago), “AHTD came in with a 10 lane freeway plan and they intend to leave with a 10 lane freeway plan.” Even the “big compromise” drive-by planning effort by the mayor and Garver’s Jerry Holder will actually worsen Little Rock’s traffic by concentrating congestion at a single exit. The compromise also let AHTD off the hook on the La Harpe connection problems of pedestrian safety and local street integration.

We need better leadership on this effort. Little Rock has the opportunity to be among the forefront of urban planning for smaller cities. We can, at this point in time, create a vibrant, walkable, and competitive city that will attract future businesses with the brightest young workers. All of us, our mayor and city council included, should be supporting an urban center that promises a huge upside for real estate investment that opens the east side of Little Rock for new growth, employment and a denser tax base.

The Imagine Central Arkansas plan by Metroplan stressed an improved arterial network to diffuse congestion, which is exactly what we need. Why didn’t AHTD embrace this approach? AHTD builds arterials – we know because one is planned for Bryant! Little Rock would be far better off with another river crossing and an eight-lane boulevard in place of a ten-lane freeway through downtown. A boulevard can give us the capacity for commuters, but supports the urban amenities for the region that most cities crave – why not us?

A better way is within our grasp. Why are our city leaders leading us towards this big mistake when a better way is within our grasp? Please make your voice heard. Join our Facebook site, Improve 30Crossing and stay up to date on developments. The next public meeting where you may voice your concerns is May 17th, 6 p.m., at Pulaski Technical College, Campus Center, 3000 West Scenic, North Little Rock. You may also email your letter to: comments@metroplan.org/comment/public-comment.

A PS FROM MAX:  More data is coming this week that will add fuel to the argument that wider freeways don't make sense in Central Arkansas.

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