State Highway Officials To Hold Another Public Meeting On I-30 Project

Nov 16, 2015

A map of Interstate 30 through downtown Little Rock.
Credit Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department plans to hold another public involvement meeting to display the latest plans for its estimated 600 million dollar Interstate 30 Crossing project. The meeting will take place at the Clinton Presidential Library from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. A notice sent by the AHTD to local media outlets says the meeting will be in “a town hall format, where the public can offer comments and ask questions about the proposed project.”

The proposed widening of the interstate from 6 lanes to 10 has stirred opposition among some neighborhood and civic groups in Little Rock, who cite the redevelopment of downtown as a cause to uphold.

The proposed project is mostly funded through revenue from a statewide sales-tax approved by voters in 2012.

The Quapaw Quarter Association, a group advocating for the preservation of old structures in the city, recently released a statement on the project, calling for a measured approach that seeks the “least possible detrimental impact on the Quapaw Quarter.

“As historic preservationists who have witnessed firsthand the destructive and divisive impact interstate highways have had on cities across the country, we cannot be “pro-interstate.” There can be no doubt that the interstate highway program was poorly conceived when it came to routing interstates through cities, and Little Rock has suffered accordingly,” the statement reads.

Rhea Roberts executive director of the Quapaw Quarter Association said the group is especially concerned about how the I-30 Crossing project would affect its Woodruff House, which sits along Capitol Avenue just west of the interstate..

“Our organization and a lot of other organizations and individuals downtown have worked very hard to get [downtown] back to where we are now and we’re going to keep working on revitalizing downtown and surrounding historic neighborhoods. So any major project like this—especially an interstate project—is going to have a major impact on all of those efforts,” said Roberts.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola says he’s looking forward to seeing the latest models and hopes the AHTD can consider some alternatives.

“One of my main concerns is the width of the 10-lane interstate. I’ve asked them in a letter for a variety of things: to look at the eight-lane alternative, to look at not having any kind of interchange on 2nd street at all, but to consider 4th and 6th streets,” he said.

Stodola also sits on the board of directors of Metroplan with other central Arkansas mayors. The agency, which is federally mandated to devise long-term infrastructure goals, has said that it would have to alter its long-range transportation plan to accommodate the Highway Department's proposal for 10-lane interstate. Metroplan's board has ultimate decision-making authority for such a change.

Some civic groups, including the Pulaski County League of Women Voters have also expressed opposition to the plan. The Downtown Little Rock Partnership unsuccessfully sought a 120-day moratorium on the project.

Some business interests are favoring the proposal, however. The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce released a statement in favor, saying the project as it is currently designed increases “accessibility as well as safety for people traveling to and from the downtown area.

“We commend the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, and its design team coordinated by Garver Engineers, for developing a plan that improves traffic safety while not materially increasing the existing right-of-way for the corridor,” the statement reads.

A resolution authored by Little Rock City Directors Ken Richardson and Kathy Webb calling for the AHTD to further study the impact of the project is also on tomorrow night’s agenda of the City Board of Directors meeting.

The AHTD's 45-day public comment period on the I-30 Crossing project ends on December 6.