More than 1,000 local architects, historic preservationists, and Little Rock residents are deeply concerned that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department intends to expand the I-30 bridge over the Arkansas River to twelve lanes as part of a freeway widening project with a stated cost of over $600 million. 

Under this plan, Arkansas taxpayers would fund the third widest bridge in America, attracting trucks and other traffic away from other river crossings and concentrating them downtown, making morning and evening commute traffic worse, not better. The twelve-lane bridge and freeway would also damage a downtown that has struggled to recover from decades of blight and eliminate the opportunity for significant new downtown development.  

Support Improve 30Crossing through the Arkansas Public Policy Panel

These citizens joined to form the Improve 30Crossing group, and in February 2016, went to the nonprofit Arkansas Public Policy Panel, a statewide organization that has worked for decades for social justice and government reform in Arkansas, and the Panel hired Norm Marshall at Smart Mobility for technical assistance.  For thirty years, Mr. Marshall has helped cities, transportation consultants, and citizens around the nation develop common sense plans to manage traffic congestion, improve safety, and increase mobility.  State highway departments often plan major bridge and highway projects based upon computer simulations of future traffic congestion.  Mr. Marshall is an expert in running such computer models and has helped improve transportation plans in diverse locales, including Chicago, Central Texas, Vermont, Arizona, and Ohio.  Mr. Marshall is active nationally in developing new and more accurate traffic simulation methods for the transportation profession, so that states and localities can get better results with your tax dollars.

The first phase of Marshall's report reviews the traffic simulation used by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) to justify its proposed 12-lane bridge.  In this report, Mr. Marshall demonstrates that a 12-lane bridge would increase traffic congestion rather than solving it, due to several factors not included in AHTD’s modeling.  Mr. Marshall explains how traffic within an urban road network tends to shift towards newly-widened freeways—an effect not represented in AHTD’s model.  He also explains how an outdated feature of the model fails to accurately represent the way that traffic backs up behind a freeway bottleneck.  Mr. Marshall has suggested ways to correct these flaws so that AHTD can get a better picture of what future traffic conditions would look like under various bridge and highway alternatives.  

The second report also begins to examine better-functioning alternatives to the 12-lane bridge.  Mr. Marshall shows that converting I-30 to a wide boulevard through downtown and constructing a new river-crossing at Chester St. would be a better way to manage traffic congestion than concentrating regional traffic on I-30 in the tight downtown corridor.  One side-effect of this alternative would be to open up significant land for economic development downtown, allowing vibrant development of the city.  Mr. Marshall reviews the success of projects in other states that have taken a similar approach.

Overall, the work of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Smart Mobility suggest that the City of Little Rock and the State of Arkansas can avoid potential cost overruns for a $600+ million, dysfunctional project by taking time to do a better analysis (and in some cases the first analysis) of the basic impacts of the project.  When over $600 million and the future of the City is at stake, it is not too much to ask to take a second look and use the best tools available.  The two attached reports are a first step in that direction.  

For clarity, note that AHTD originally referred to its project as a “10-lane bridge.”  Later, because a special vote of the regional transportation planning agency is needed to expand beyond 6 lanes, AHTD began to refer to the project as a “6 plus 4 lane bridge,” claiming that four lanes do not count because they are “collector distributor lanes” that manage merging, along with offramps and onramps.  However, AHTD’s own video simulation shows that its bridge proposal would have 12 lanes, not counting shoulders.  

For Immediate Release: 6/10/2016 

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel, working with a coalition of Little Rock neighborhood

leaders, today submitted comments to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation

Department (AHTD) opposing plans to widen I-30 through downtown Little Rock in their

current form.

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.”

Other Resources

Metroplan

Metroplan’s role is to plan common infrastructure – especially the transportation systems that connect our Central Arkansas communities with each other and with the world. Learn more at http://www.metroplan.org/

Read MetroPlan's public comments on 30 Crossing HERE.

And view Imagine Central Arkansas, the current long-range transportation plan for the Central Arkansas.

 

Justice in Corpus Christi: Residents of segregated neighborhood win historic civil rights agreement

Residents of a historically segregated African-American community filed a Title VI civil rights complaint with the Federal Highway Administration over the disparate racial impact of a proposed state highway project. Read more here.

 

An Interstate Runs Through It: The Construction of Little Rock's Interstate 630 and the Fight to Stop It

Through an examination of the construction of I-630, this thesis advances the basic understanding of the elements of an organized freeway revolt and serves as a guide for other communities as they navigate their own freeway planning efforts. Read more here.

Citizens group and others sought declaratory and injunctive relief against various federal and state highway officials to halt or at least delay construction of an interstate highway. Check out the brief here.

 

ALabama Group Fights Highway Expansion

Birmingham, AL is a year ahead of Little Rock in its debate with state highway officials about widening the interstate through the downtown part of the city. Read More Here

Check out the Move 1-20/59 website to see what the Alabama group is working on.

 

CITY OF LITTLE ROCK CONTRACT FOR REVIEW OF I-30 PLAN

View the city's Professional Services Agreement with Nelson/Nygaard Here