As Leslie Peacock reported earlier, testimony is piling up against the Arkansas Highway Department’s plan to widen Interstate 30 through Little Rock to as many as 12 lanes (with room for more) to accommodate utterly speculative congestion 25 years from now.
Criticism of the highway department’s data and ideas has now come from an expert hired by neighbors and progressive groups; an expert hired by the city; a veteran federal project analyst who volunteered an assessment; Metroplan specialists, and dozens of people concerned about the damage the project will do to a re-emerging downtown.
Said the Arkansas Public Policy Panel in its comments:
The Panel engaged the services of Norman Marshall of Smart Mobility, Inc. as a traffic planning consultant to study the I-30 expansion proposals, analyze AHTD’s proposed options to determine their feasibility and develop better alternatives if any exist after studying AHTD’s proposed options. The results of that study found serious deficiencies in the AHTD analysis, and suggested that several better alternatives are available.
The Panel urges AHTD, the Metroplan Board and Little Rock city leaders to abandon the current plan to widen I-30. It is likely to do great harm to the livability of downtown Little Rock while failing to alleviate traffic congestion by inducing new traffic and fueling urban sprawl. “A more thorough analysis of alternatives should be conducted that engages the impacted communities,” said Bill Kopsky, Executive Director of the Panel. “Alternatives should show better prospects of reducing congestion, encouraging infill development instead of sprawl and doing no harm to the hard work that’s already been invested to make Little Rock a vibrant city.”
In a remarkable coincidence, my attention was drawn today to a Washington Post article about proposals by seven cities to re-imagine transportation and neighborhoods in creative ways. Not a one of them proposes wider freeways. Don’t bother telling that to City Director Lance Hines and the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, among others, who are SURE that wider freeways are ALWAYS the one and only answer.
If you have some time, give a look at the roundup of ideas in the Post article. Fascinating stuff. Why couldn’t we do it here? We could, if only we weren’t stuck in the whatever-was-good-enough-for-grandpap-is-good-enough-for-me mode.
UPDATE: I’ve just been provided an April letter to Mayor Stodola and the board of directors from eight previous leaders of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, including the first director, Anne Bartley (1975-79), director Tom Dillard (1981-86), State Historic Preservation Officer Wilson Stiles (1981-87), director Joan Baldridge (1989-1992), director Beverly Lindsey (1993-1996), SHPO Cathy Slater (1988-2000), director Cathie Matthews (2000-2012) and Martha Miller (2013-2014), to consider the impact of widening I-30 on the investment in downtown and heed their voices. (You will notice that the letter was not signed by the current DAH director, Stacy Hurst.)
Under federal law (Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act), AHTD also has an obligation to consider the impact of their actions on historic resources ….. of which there are MANY in the area of concern. And that obligation extends to historically significant communities as well. That would certainly include the minority population of the area that will be negatively impacted, once again (i.e. I-630), by the division of their neighborhood with a huge freeway project. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program has the obligation in AR to make sure that these concerns are addressed. Section 106 is administered by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which is in DC. ( Cathy Slater was chairman of this Council for 8 years). …Please heed the latest scholarship about freeways in the hearts of cities and follow the example of other urban areas that have solved similar traffic problems with successful alternative solutions. Please do not repeat the mistakes of administrations that have ignored the evidence of induced traffic effects.