Contact Person: Barry Haas (firstname.lastname@example.org & 501-539-9922)
IMPROVE 30 CROSSING OPPOSES WAIVER OF SIX-THROUGH-LANE METROPLAN RESTRICTION
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) has requested a waiver from Metroplan's 6-through-lane maximum on the I-30 project they call 30 Crossing.
Improve 30 Crossing, a group of engaged citizens who believe AHTD's plans will result in real harm to ongoing and thriving development in downtown Little Rock, opposes the waiver as being extremely premature given the current state of the proposed project.
Sometimes it takes the collective vision and voices of ordinary citizens to show elected "leaders" they’re headed in the wrong direction.
Last December, Paul Greenberg wrote a column about the plans to widen I-30 to ten lanes and called the idea "madness multiplied". In the column's final paragraph he writes: "Plans are just fine....but beware: Great plans can prove great failures, even if some of our planners are oblivious to the great failures they are courting."
It was revealed last week that the I-30 Environmental Assessment (EA) will now take until the end of March 2017. The reason for the extended time line? AHTD had essentially ignored Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act which requires the inclusion of historic preservation issues. The Federal Highway Administration had to set our state highway department straight on their responsibilities under Section 106.
This extended time line on the EA gives AHTD additional time to present a responsible plan that the community can get behind and support. But it may not be the $630 million plan dreamed of by big highway contractors.
So far AHTD has offered thousands of individuals trying to stay informed on this issue few options, none of them good. There was a “No build” option. And then there were "Build" options with 14-15 lanes dividing downtown Little Rock, a massive overbuilding based on both traffic count and the populations of Little Rock and North Little Rock.
The public deserves a rational, reasonable option. At a minimum it should include replacement of the I-30 bridge as already required by the federal government, shifting some downtown through traffic east to I-440 and west
to I-430 through the use of improved signage, and major improvements to I-30 access points.
It’s unfortunate that for the most part the leadership of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County have accepted AHTD’s lack of a reasonable alternative as described above. When will they stand up and fight for what’s best for their citizens?
Independent traffic studies have shown that AHTD’s proposals may make congestion worse, not better, due to “induced demand” where more motorists use the additional lanes and travel speeds are slower than at present. We need only look at other metropolitan areas that have suffered just that fate upon completion of interstate widenings. Must we make the same mistake at a cost of hundreds of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars?
An intriguing option offered many months ago was to turn I-30 into a boulevard in downtown Little Rock. Get rid of that racing through downtown Little Rock at breakneck speed option. Stitch the areas east and west of the existing I-30 back together after roughly 60 years of having a barrier separating the two. Think of the development possibilities and quality of life improvements that would offer to both residents and visitors alike. Call it “Little Rock Boulevard”, and watch the area come alive.
Who is surprised that contractors submitted at least 30 of the 108 comments "For the 6-through-lane waiver" to Metroplan? We’re not. And an incredible 73 or so of the 108 “For” comments, almost 68%, parroted the identical, contractor contrived paragraph either word for word, or changing the order of the sentences to make the comments seem original. They were not original, and didn’t hide an effort to stuff the ballot box.
Given the scope of the proposed I-30 project, it's likely that a more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will ultimately be required rather than the less comprehensive EA. There is local legal precedent for such action in a 1991 federal lawsuit involving Rebsamen Park Road along the Arkansas River in Little Rock. That project, like the current I-30 project, was conceived in the hope it would save commuters a few minutes each day. But that project, like the current I-30 project, ignored the rights and needs of Little Rock residents.
It took both a successful federal lawsuit as well as a vote by Little Rock voters in November 1992 to force misguided Little Rock leaders to abandon their Rebsamen Park Road plans. That area along the Arkansas River in Little Rock, along with the Big Dam Bridge which could not have been built had a commuter road been built in that same area, is now one of the most highly utilized recreational spots in central Arkansas.
Just as the Little Rock Mayor and Board did in 1991-1992 with their mistaken vision on Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock's, North Little Rock’s and Pulaski County’s current leadership has acquiesced to the highway department's threat- do it our way, or you won’t even get an I-30 bridge replacement.
That $630 million in precious taxpayer funds must be spent more wisely. Don’t the public's voices count for anything when deciding critical “public policy issues” like this one?
Improve 30 Crossing believes we can do better, and our communities deserve better, than a rushed expansion of I-30. Better options are out there if our elected officials and Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department are willing to listen. Adding ever more lanes is not the solution.
Signed by Tom Fennell, Ellen Fennell, Pratt Remmel, Jr., Pat Riley Jr., Barry Haas, Kathy Webb & Rebecca Engstrom