Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Quick Check-In

I just sat through over two hours of discussion by the Little Rock Board of Directors with Jim McKenzie, executive director of MetroPlan. The impetus was a resolution proposed by Directors Richardson and Webb basically asking for more thoughtful planning to be conducted before the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department locks itself further into a $600 million widening of seven miles of Interstate 30 in LR and NLR. This post'll just hit some fleeting takeaways that I want to get down while they're still fresh on the mind. Hopefully something more in-depth will come later, time permitting.

1. We all need to listen to Jim McKenzie and MetroPlan. They're a little too locked into the cars-first mentality for my liking, but if I'm being completely honest, their approach to transportation problems here and there throughout the central Arkansas region seems about as even-keeled, practical, and politically-feasible as any others right now. 

2. Many of our City Directors are genuinely interested in figuring out what's best for the city's and the region's future, regardless of what the past's conventional wisdom and rules of thumb say is best. I understand that local elected leaders questioning the AHTD's actions in even the mildest of tones takes great political courage, and I appreciate that some are working hard to make sure a more open and public conversation happens before we dive headlong into a more intensively expensive freeway-dependent future. 

3. Lance Hines has some screwy notions about what kinds of government interventions further the interests of a free market and what interventions hinder it. 

4. If Lance Hines and Dean Kumpuris are going to combatively question MetroPlan's methodologies and long-held policy positions, then they should do the same for the AHTD. I have no problem with hard questions. Just don't be lopsided in your use of them. 

5(a). Some of our City Directors seem uninformed about the role of MetroPlan. 

5(b). Some of our City Directors seem uninformed about their role in continuously evaluating and working to implement or reject MetroPlan's plans. There were some comments about what MetroPlan wants and how MetroPlan is or isn't going to pay for those things. That is wrong. That is backwards. That view represents a lack of understanding about the services that MetroPlan provides and the City's responsibility in taking advantage of those services. [this is one of the points that could grow into a much longer post/posts, so I'll cut it short for now.] Suffice it to say, MetroPlan is like our region's retirement advisor, except hopefully there's never going to be a 'retirement', just continued prosperity. Yeah, that's a good analogy. I'll try to run with it later. 

6. Genuinely accepted fact: widening Interstate 30 will necessitate additional widening projects along other freeway segments if we are to see the promised future 'benefits' of 30 Crossing. Statement made tonight: if the statewide 1/2 cent sales tax that's paying for all of the Connecting Arkansas Program projects were extended for two more 10-year periods, then 30 Crossing's follow-up projects will eat up 100% of that money. In other words: if 30 Crossing is going to function the way the highway engineers are selling it to us, then we'll need a dedicated 1/2 statewide sales tax for 20 years. Obviously, the U.S. Congress might decide that we're worthy of that kind of money and just give it to us instead of us Arkansawyers paying for it. 

7. Ken Richardson correctly and repeatedly pointed out throughout the discussion that the questions being raised were precisely why his and Kathy Webb's resolution needs to be adopted. 


  1. This is fabulous. Thank you for doing this for those of us who can't attend or see on local access.

  2. Thanks, Tim! Love to see the accolades for Jim (my uncle, BTW! small world!). He's been a wise man in my life for many a year...

  3. Central Arkansas doesn't really have a choice as to whether it wants MetroPlan or not. A Metropolitan Planning Organization which is what MetroPlan is, is required under federal law in order for states and localities to receive federal highway and transit funds. While the quality and independence of MPOs around the country varies greatly, every metropolitan area must have a functioning one that produces an approved Transportation Improvement Plan.

    Any expansion of Interstate 30 in Little Rock and North Little Rock must be included in the TIP for Central Arkansas and must be approved by the Metroplan Board to be in that TIP.

  4. Just a reminder, Lance Hines works for a trucking company. His interest in this is clearly defined as "making you pay for road I benefit from more than you ever will".