SIX LANES TOO MANY: A new lawsuit says bond money can't be spent on a highway wider than four lanes. The 30 Crossing project would expand I-30 through Little Rock to 10 lanes or more.

A lawsuit was filed in Pulaski Circuit Court today challenging the state Department of Transportation’s plans to widen Interstate 30 through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock to 10 lanes or more.

The taxpayer suit, with five plaintiffs from around the state and Justin Zachary as lead attorney, argues that the highway improvement bonds authorized by state Constitutional Amendment 91, which will pay for a portion of the $700 million project, limits spending the money to four-lane highways. The suit seeks to enjoin the Highway Commission from spending money on anything wider than four lanes.

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The suit notes, with emphasis added:

On November 6, 2012, the voters of the State of Arkansas approved Amendment No. 91 to the Constitution of Arkansas, which authorized the State Highway Commission to issue the Bonds in a total principal amount of One Billion, Three Hundred Million Dollars ($1,300,000,000) for the purposes of (i) accelerating four-lane highway improvements in progress or scheduled as of January 1, 2011; (ii) funding new four-lane highway improvements not in progress or scheduled as of January 1, 2011; (iii) providing matching funds in connection with federal highway programs for four-lane highway improvements; and (iv) paying the costs of issuance of the Bonds. 

There are other references to four-lane highways in the amendment, including:

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13. “Four-lane highway improvements” is defined in Section 2 of Amendment 91 as:
(g)(1) “Four-lane highway improvements” means construction of and improvements to:

(A) Four-lane roadways;
(B) Bridges;
(C) Tunnels
(D) Engineering;
(E) Rights-of-way; and
(F) Other related capital improvements and facilities appurtenant or pertaining thereto, including costs of rights-of-way acquisition and utility adjustments.

(g)(2) “Four-lane highway improvements” also means the maintenance of four-lane highway improvements constructed with proceeds of the bonds.

The suit notes the state is already using some of the bond money to expand the six-lane Interstate 630 in Little Rock to eight lanes. Mays’ earlier effort to halt that work for lack of an environmental impact statement was turned back in federal court.

The 30 Crossing project is even bigger. Said the suit:

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Defendants are also proposing to use funds from The Bond Account to widen an  approximately nine (9) mile section of Interstate 30 between the I-440/I-530/I-30 interchange northward to the intersection of Interstate 40 with U.S. Highway 167. In such section, I-30 would be widened from its current configuration of six lanes to eight or ten lanes, at an estimated cost of approximately $700 million, of which sixty-four percent (64%), or approximately $448 million, would consist of funds from The Bond Account.

The use of funds from The Bond Account for construction, improvements, modifications or maintenance of roads other than those that are state highways of four lanes, or to enlarge state highways to four lanes, is contrary to the intent, purpose and authorization contained in Amendment 91, and is unconstitutional.

Here’s the lawsuit.