Little Rock-Based Urban Design Collective Criticizes I-30 Widening

Oct 22, 2015

A local collective of urban planners is raising objections to the planned widening of a section of  Interstate 30, running through Little Rock and North Little Rock. StudioMAIN, a group of architects and urban development and design professionals released a letter addressed to Arkansas Department of Highway and Transportation Department director Scott Bennett, detailing several areas of concern related to the I-30 project. They join others, including State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) who in recent days have criticized the project.


They write:


“As an organization of design professionals we are empathetic to the incredibly difficult problem of integrating a high traffic corridor within an urban area where the culmination of private and commercial interests, river, rail, pedestrian, bike, and public transit come together. Each of these aspects plays an important role in a healthy and functioning urban environment. To maintain the rapid growth and investment in this area, it is critical to consider the multiple layers of activity that contribute to its success.”


Among areas where the group found the highway plan lacking: the need for long term comprehensive planning, east-west connectivity, multi-modal transportation and best-use of the space.


“As planners we have a duty to protect the life, safety and welfare of our community and the people that occupy spaces we design. The current design is focused overwhelmingly on the driver of the highway, who is not the only user of this space, since this space goes through the largest urban area within our state.”


The plan  would widen the interstate from 6 lanes to 10 and replace the bridge over the Arkansas river. The Highway Department has stated that the goal of the project is to relieve congestion and improve an aging roadway and bridge that sees more than 125,000 vehicles a day. The construction would be funded by a state sales tax that voters approved in 2012.

A public meeting on the the project will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the gym of the Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene in North Little Rock.