Monday, October 19, 2015

The View of Interstate 30 from Edinburgh

Resistance is bubbling up all over the place to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's misguided plan to spend $500 million enlarging seven-ish miles of Interstate 30 through downtowns North Little Rock and Little Rock. Here's one particularly thorough Facebook post from Trey Jacobs, a world traveler who's planning a move to Little Rock, reposted here in full with his permission. I made just a couple of minor corrections in brackets:

"I read over the CAP (Connecting Arkansas Programme) Planning and Environmental Linkage Report to try and get my head around what made the expansion of the I-30 Freeway worthwhile. Direct quote from the report:
I-30 Purpose and Need
Needs (Problems) Purpose (Solutions)
Traffic Congestion
To improve mobility on I-30 and I-40 by providing comprehensive solutions that improve travel speed and travel time to downtown North Little Rock and Little Rock and accommodate the expected increase in traffic demand. I-30 provides essential access to other major state wide transportation corridors, serves local and regional travelers and connects residential, commercial and employment centers.
Roadway Safety
To improve travel safety within and across the I-30 corridor by eliminating
and/or improving inadequate design features.
Structural and Functional
Roadway Deficiencies To improve I-30 roadway conditions and functional ratings.
Navigational Safety
To improve navigational safety on the Arkansas River Bridge by
eliminating and/or improving inadequate design features.
Structural and Functional Bridge Deficiencies
To improve I-30 Arkansas River Bridge conditions and functional ratings.
Please observe there is NOTHING in those key points that reads:
1. Directly enhances the Downtown area (the area it directly affects).
2. Promotes tourism.
3. Creates a healthier environment for those along the I-30 route.
4. Creates solutions to long term traffic congestion.
5. Is value for money.
The guys who manage the budget must have considered other alternatives as to spend something in the region of HALF A BILLION DOLLARS couldn’t be so blind as to just to go with the first idea put to them. The report does list a number of alternatives that were ruled out for various reasons. I was amazed one of them was a 12 lane bridge expansion. A bridge in front of the city with 12 lanes, now wouldn’t that be special, true post card material.

If the city [state] is going to spend so much money, that astronomical amount of money, I would think it’s time to really take stock of what Little Rock wants for its future. Don’t wait for a crisis point to change and evolve. Look at how the city functions, what drives it, and how it can be improved for future generations. Don’t just look at what has been done and repeat the same again and again, think outside the box and look at what COULD be done.

I favour light rail for Little Rock, that could be a tram network, or trains. It would be a thing of beauty to have suburban bus routes linking to a train that ran along the major traffic corridors into the CBD. Better yet an underground metro system. If all your doing is driving to work, to drive home again, why not just get on a speedy train and read a paper rather than stress about traffic and parking?
Well here were the report’s findings on rail.
Planning and Environmental Linkages Level 2 Screening and Methodology and results Memorandum
Light Rail (Street Car) – The Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) Strategic Plan (10-year plan) does not include light rail improvements. Light Rail is part of CATA’s long range plan; however, CATA has indicated that they would implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) before implementing Light Rail along future Light Rail corridors. This alternative was screened out as a result of CATA not including light rail in their 10-year Strategic Plan and the lack of a dedicated funding source identified in the Metroplan LRMTP. Metroplan modeled Light Rail under the category of Fixed Guideway which included both Light Rail and Commuter Rail and found that together under the most aggressive “Supportive” land use policy, fixed guideway attracts approximately 6,400 person trips.
Commuter Rail – The CATA Strategic Plan (10-year plan) does not include commuter rail, nor is it included in CATA’s long range plan. This alternative was screened out as a result of CATA not including commuter rail in any of their future planning documents and the lack of a dedicated funding source identified in the Metroplan LRMTP. Metroplan modeled Light Rail under the category of fixed guideway which included both Light Rail and Commuter Rail and found that together under the most aggressive “Supportive” land use policy, fixed guideway attracts approximately 6,400 person trips.
If I understand that correctly, they ruled out rail alternatives to a $500,000,000 expansion of the existing highway because the city’s [region's] existing public transport authority didn’t have a plan to include funded rail routes.

I looked at the published Central Arkansas Transit Authority Budget Report and found its 2015 budget is just $17,283,416. That’s a little over $17 million to connect a city compared to half a billion for a 7 mile highway expansion.

Perhaps if someone gave MOVE Central Arkansas (formerly CATA) [now Rock Region Metro] half a billion to invest in facilities that cover Little Rock and North Little Rock, rail may be an option???
When I’m in Little Rock I use the busses, as I’ve mentioned I come from a comparatively privileged public transit system, but MOVE is upgrading its facilities including free onboard wife and real time bus tracking. The frequency and journey time from out near the K-Mart on Rodney Parham Rd in West Little Rock isn’t something I’d like to endure each morning for work and the MOVE guys could really use some help to beef up their transit system. I’d also like to add I came across a obvious negative stigma attached to the use of busses in Little Rock, that REALLY, REALLY, needs changed.
My husband Carl (a confirmed caroholic) said that if the busses were like the system we have in Edinburgh then more people would use them, he was really impressed.

Little Rock bus map, click on bus system map
http://www.rrmetro.org/?page_id=636

Edinburgh bus map, click on the Network tab
http://lothianbuses.com/timetables-and-maps/route-maps

Yes we have a vastly superior public transit system in Edinburgh than Little Rock currently does, but my point is put half a billion into your public transport and Little Rock could be OUTSTANDING.
I suggest removing the section of I-30 from the corner of MacArthur Park down to the river’s edge and demolishing the bridge.

The void around the 2nd street exit ramps would make an ideal place for a tram/train station.
We could infill where the highway was creating tunnels for public transport and reconnect and welcome back Hanger Hill back to the city.

This is not impossible. It’s very achievable.
http://www.preservenet.com/freeways/index.html
http://gizmodo.com/6-freeway-demolitions-that-changed-their-cities-forever-1548314937

The Highways Department have said in their report that a bridge is good for 50 years and the 10 lane expansion will keep traffic flowing freely in 2041. Exactly what happens in 2061? In 2081? If it costs half a billion to create a 10 lane highway now, what will we need in what the proposed bridge comes to the end of its life? What will the solution be then, how many extra lanes will be required and how much will it cost.

It was a travesty of a decision to put a highway through the downtown of Little Rock to begin with.
We don’t need to perpetuate the same errors of the past.

We can make a landmark change for the future and put Little Rock on the map for being progressive. The city needs to consult with the transport planners of other cities that have fantastic integrated network systems before it commits to spending so much money to save 10 minutes drive time.
There are two alternative routes around the city that people and industry can use. Removing this one artery won’t kill economic development. Won’t stop people from being able to get to work.
Downtown is seeing a positive resurgence of people visiting and making it their home. There are literally new apartments going up where people will live, this is not just a Central Business District, it’s a neighbourhood.

Who in life wants a bloody 10 lane highway running through their neighbourhood, it’s outrageous. Perhaps if it was directed along Country Club Boulevard there may be more interest?

Removing the bridge would create a more user friendly riverscape, increase the CBD as a place for people, make it a more tourist friendly place to be, enable Hanger Hill and that side of the city to become accessible.

It was a mistake to build that bridge and put cars before people to begin with, let’s fix it. If all people want is to throw money at roads then expand the 430 and 440."

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