Last week, when asked if concrete plans to access Dark Hollow existed, Mayor Pat Hays responded, “Well, yes and no.”
He said, “There are basically three different – in my mind, three – different phases, in terms of what could be done to assist traffic flows, not only for The Shoppes at North Hills, but also for the traffic on 67/167 and I-30 and the segment of I-40 that transverses the two.”
Key to these phases, he said, would be “reconfiguration of the area south of McCain.”
This would involve constructing new roads and ramps to move traffic off of U.S. 67/167 to the site of The Shoppes at North Hills via North Hills Boulevard.
Hays said other key elements of the plan were construction of a new frontage road and an exit ramp on the north side of the Dark Hollow site to provide access to I-40.
Asked if these, or other proposals, had been formally adopted, as suggested in his letter to the Corps, or how the other “associated agencies,” as he’d put it, had signaled their “agreement,” Hays waffled.
“I don’t know about ‘adopted,’ if you can say ‘formally adopted.’ I don’t know that the [highway] commission or the city council signed off on it,” he said. “But in my discussions with the highway department, as well as the federal people involved, with regard to ‘would those lines we’d drawn on the map work?,’ that letter was accurate.”
He added: “In our discussions, all the parties have signed off on it. If you want to quibble over the word ‘adopted,’ all I can tell you is that the staff here has adopted this as a plan that is acceptable.”
The mayor said his $17 million request for two interstate bridge fly-overs was unrelated to The Shoppes at North Hills, and would mainly help motorists traveling I-40 who did not want to get off in North Little Rock.
“They’d be of little to no benefit to the Shoppes,” he said. “They’d be beneficial for traffic, not to that area, but through it.”
Hays described the effort to provide access to the Dark Hollow area as “a moving target” he has been trying to hit for the past six years. Beginning early this year, he said, engineers at the various agencies involved “began nodding,” he said, signaling their “verbal agreement” that “the big kickers” – the challenges relating to ingress and egress – had theoretically been solved.
“There’s still some issues that are open,” the mayor said. “But the general principles have been deemed acceptable, achievable and fundable.”
Still, Hays acknowledged, “There is no final plan. And there will not be a final plan, unless this project moves forward.”
Asked how the Corps could assess the development’s impact on traffic without a final plan, Hays replied, “I don’t know what they did. You’ll have to ask them.”
That took the interview back to its beginning and the letter Hays wrote in February to the Corps, stating that “transportation measures have been approved” and “all associated agencies are in agreement.”
Was that a fair representation?
Hays said he did not have the letter in front of him, but added: “Whatever I wrote, whenever I wrote it, it was and remains fully supportable.”
— Mara Leveritt