Editor’s note: Frank D. Scott, Jr. is a banker and state highway commissioner. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
As a native of Little Rock with a lifelong passion for public policy, it has been exciting to watch so many in our city become engaged in the ongoing process to design and construct the 30 Crossing project.
For more than two years now, Arkansas Department of Highway and Transportation personnel, along with project engineers, have been meeting with elected and appointed officials, neighborhood groups and individuals, in gatherings large and small, seeking input and feedback on the potential project design.
As an appointed member of the Arkansas State Highway Commission, I have attended a few dozen of the more than 200 meetings that have been held, to date. I was appointed to one of the “at-large” positions on the Commission, and I strive to ensure that every Arkansan, no matter where they live, has access to safe, efficient roadways. Because Little Rock is my home, I will admit to paying particularly close attention to the 30 Crossing project for two important reasons.
1. I drive this route nearly every day, living in Southwest Little Rock and working in and around Downtown.
2. I am passionate about the growth of Central Arkansas and its economy and have dedicated much of my adult life to ensuring that future growth provides expanded opportunity for every citizen, in every neighborhood, of our City.
As I’ve attended these meetings, it has been refreshing and energizing to meet people who share my passion to create a city in which all citizens have access to the tools and opportunities necessary to achieve their dreams. It has also been frustrating, at times, to hear people who share that passion get carried away in the moment and lose sight of the facts.
As we talk of the best ways to foster our beloved community, we can disagree, but let’s all take that extra minute to make sure we’ve done our best to ask questions that are informed by the facts. That our suggestions, solutions or critical feedback are based on what is laid out before us, not our personal ideologies.
Some have suggested that we ‘pause’ the planning process so that other issues can be added to the discussion. Adding those other issues is actually part of the very process we are in now and have been part of for nearly two years. These new suggestions are appreciated and will be evaluated.
The growing passions around the project appear to have muddled the vision for some of what the proposed 30 Crossing project would actually look like.
Some envision a massive stretch of 10-lane highway that carries traffic more easily past our towns and along interstate corridors. Simply stated, this project is not that.
For a comparable example of what is being proposed for I-30, look at how I-430 – northbound and southbound – crosses I-630. What you will see is three lanes handling the northbound through traffic, three lanes handling the southbound through traffic, with two-lane collector/distributor (CD) roads on either side, for a total of ten lanes. In that location, there are four separate bridges to handle those movements, so it’s very easy to see how the different facilities function because of the separation between them.
What’s being proposed for the I-30 river crossing is similar, but altered to suit the geography of downtown. There would be three through lanes in each direction, with CD roads on each side to more safely and efficiently handle the traffic merging between interchanges. Unlike West Little Rock, this pattern would be housed on one bridge (with barrier walls to keep traffic separated) to decrease the total footprint and impacts to neighboring properties.
The purpose of this project is to connect, not divide. We are working toward a solution that better connects all of our citizens and our functions of society. We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress.
The latest options were developed in conjunction with key stakeholders, including the City of Little Rock. After listening to the community’s concerns at various public meetings, the Second and Fourth Street connections are no longer on the table. We are now working with national urban planners to propose other viable alternatives. In addition, we have restored the trolley connections and continue to work with Rock Region METRO (formerly CATA). We will continue to meet with interest groups.
Are there still unresolved issues? Yes. Are more changes coming? Absolutely. But it is not in anyone’s best interest to stop or pause a process that is working as it should.
Whether you end up supporting or opposing this project, please understand that our primary goal above all others is to develop a solution that enhances the social and economic vitality of Little Rock and North Little Rock, while also enhancing safety and mobility for our drivers.