Monday, November 16, 2015

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

Greetings from Little Rock
Who needs a photo-op of a distant bridge when you could be under one instead?
I spent some time on Sunday taking photos of areas that will be impacted by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's 30 Crossing Project, the ill-conceived plan to widen Interstate 30 in downtown Little Rock to ten lanes. In my opinion most of the Department's imagery so far has been severely lacking in its ability to communicate to the public what the expanded bridges will look like in real life on the ground, so I threw together some crude 3-D renderings too.

First, some caveats:
1. I'm not a graphic designer or 3-D modeler or engineer or anything that would remotely prepare me to make accurate renderings of what 30 Crossing will look like as currently proposed. The before and after images below represent my best estimate about new bridge outlines based on this document and using some very rudimentary free drawing tools.
2. The big grey blobs are presented only to show the approximate footprints of the proposed bridges in AHTD's 10-lane configuration. The heights are way off, and obviously the bridge supports will not be solid. Think of these as showing the bridge shadow lines when the sun is directly overhead. If AHTD would provide similar close-up renderings based on their own design files I will gladly post them.

Here's the map of Little Rock's River Market area shown by AHTD in this pdf file. The red lines show the bridge edges. Yellow shows the lane markings:
AHTD's bridge outline file
And here's the Google Earth view of the same area. The Clinton library is out of the frame to your right; the Riverfront Amphitheater is in the upper left corner:
I-30 aerial view, before
And what that would look like with AHTD's outlines filled in a little more solidly, more like an actual road:
Aerial view, after
Side view with the River Market district in the upper right corner and part of the Clinton Presidential Park in the lower left quadrant:
Looking southwest, before
Looking southwest, after
River Market to the lower right, Game & Fish Commission Nature Center at the bottom, Bill Clark Wetlands in the upper left:
Looking southeast, before
Looking southeast, after
Another angle:
Looking northwest, before
Looking northwest, after
And, one more, this one showing the Clinton Presidential Library in the top right:
Looking east, before
Looking east, after

Here's the bronze eagle statue and miniature plaza that mark the eastern end of the River Market district. The buildings across the street are currently for sale, and could potentially serve as solid anchors for this end of the block. However, the proposed highway bridge would necessitate leveling the two story building in the middle, the taller blank one to the right, and a much taller and older building out of view behind these. I-30 is just out of the frame to the right of this photo:

Here is a panorama of the backs of those buildings near the eagle. The edge of the highway would fall somewhere near that brownish billboard column in the middle. I assume the whole multi-story 19th Century building behind it would have to be leveled though. This would be such a great missed opportunity for continuing the positive redevelopment of the entire River Market district, especially considering that this block of beige buildings is finally on the market:

The Clinton Library is behind the camera in this next image. I-30 is in the near foreground, and the River Market area is on the other side. The bottom edge of this frame shows roughly where the new bridge footprint would fall:

All of this would be under the bridge:

The brightest red tree at the bottom of the hill shows approximately where the bridge edge would be. Everything to the left would be under:

Looking in the opposite direction. See the row of evenly spaced yellowish trees near the top left? Draw a line from the left-most tree down to the red tree on the right. That's the edge of the bridge, as proposed.

This popular exercise spot would be under the bridge:

Here's the River Trail, looking west / upstream. The edge of the new bridge's footprint would be at roughly the bottom edge of this photo:

These next few photos show a lovely area up against the current bridge's solid base. There are some sculptures, a photo-op cutout sign, some benches, and great views of the river, the Clinton park and the Presidential Library in the distance. All of this will be more than 70 feet inside the footprint of the new bridge:

Imagine these next two images with roughly identical spans added to both sides:

And finally, here's a little pocket garden near the bronze eagle statue. The plaque praises Dr. Alan Sugg's forward-thinking leadership in helping make the Clinton School of Public Service a reality several years ago. The plaque itself would not be under the bridge, but I don't know how well this garden will fare when it has to spend most of its day in a shadow:

Will today's leaders take a cue from people like Alan Sugg and think about the future of all of Little Rock instead of just appeasing today's old-fashioned highway builders? Time will tell...


  1. Thank you for taking the time to provide these perspectives.

  2. Really great work Tim.
    Back in the day they used freeway construction to clear cities of 'blight', ironic that today that word now best describes the freeways

  3. AHTD is doing similar harm to Cave City. Sweet Arkansas town, home of the Water Melon Festival and some notable Arkansans. Buildings are built to the street. Widening from 3 lanes (1 lane each way plus center turn lane) to 5 (2 lanes each way plus center turn lane) - will bring faster traffic right to the edge of the sidewalks.

    No need for such extreme design: Current traffic volume per AHTD is about 7000 vehicles per day. Capacity of existing 3 lanes is 20,000.