Representatives from the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department presented a nearly hour-long report to citizens and the Little Rock Board of Directors Tuesday night, offering assurances that they are listening to concerns about a proposed expansion of Interstate 30 in the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock.
The meeting had to be moved to the Clinton Center to accommodate a larger crowd. The presentation was followed up with about an hour's worth of questions from city directors - along with another hour of public comment mostly from citizens opposed various parts of the project.
AHTD Director Scott Bennett started the presentation, quickly handing off the rest of the presentation to Jerry Holder, engineer with Garver Engineers - the program manager for the Connecting Arkansas Project, which includes the I-30 widening project - referred to the I-30 Crossing.
Holder mentioned most of the changes are being made, not only to facilitate increasing traffic between I-530 & I-40 on Interstate 30 - but also to address safety concerns with the current design of the seven-mile stretch of I-30.
Most of the concern from the public was associated with the effects on downtown Little Rock. Initial proposals were going to potentially move Rock Region Metro streetcar service - Holder later acknowledging AHTD has revisited the plan to prevent service disruption east of I-30, but mentioned there may be some issues with streetcar service around the Rivermarket.
Holder acknowledged different proposals that AHTD is still considering for the LaHarpe Boulevard interchange. The primary proposal being floated would make the LaHarpe exit the main downtown collector. City directors, as well as the public, have a multitude of issues with the proposed on-and-off ramps - mainly stemming from traffic issues, pedestrian friendliness and the possible stymieing of downtown and Rivermarket growth.
City director Doris Wright asked AHTD representatives if alternatives had been suggested to the LaHarpe interchange altogether. Holder said putting the collector anywhere else would be impossible.
"Mayor, we've talked about this," said Holder. "Could we move that interchange further south - maybe do a 6th Street/4th Street kind of deal - it's geometrically impossible to do. Also, you can't hardly get the interchange any closer to I-630 without breaking the rules - space constrictions."