The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on Wednesday endorsed the six-lane with four collector/distributor lanes "diamond" plan for the Interstate 30 corridor through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.
The state Highway and Transportation Department held a special meeting Tuesday night to present the latest options for expanding the corridor, which includes the I-30 bridge over the Arkansas River and on- and off-ramps in Little Rock and North Little Rock.
The controversial plan has been closely watched by stakeholders on both sides of the river, including in the River Market District and downtown Little Rock, where developers are beginning work on Phase 1 of the $100 million Tech Park.
Included in the "30 crossing" plan is a proposal to move the Cantrell Road interchange that brings drivers from I-30 into downtown Little Rock south to Fourth, Sixth and Ninth streets and Capitol Avenue.
The Tech Park board met by teleconference Wednesday morning. Chairman Kevin Zaffaroni said AHTD Director Scott Bennett had asked the board to put forth an opinion on the I-30 project.
The board's endorsement is contingent upon design changes that will create a more pedestrian-friendly Capitol Avenue, according to a motion its members unanimously approved during the teleconference.
Tech Park Executive Director Brent Birch will write a letter to Bennett containing the motion and the board's other comments about the plan. Zaffaroni said the statement should make clear that members feel "anything that creates a better live, work, play environment for downtown Little Rock is good for the Tech Park."
Capitol Avenue Traffic
During the teleconference, board member Dickson Flake said shifting the Cantrell Road interchange would likely have the most community support.
But he said the department should remove general access to Capitol Avenue. Dickson said there should be a tight radius and sharp corner at Capitol Avenue with a general radius for the other exits to encourage more traffic on those.
Flake also said he’d like Capitol Avenue to keep the two lanes and parking it has now. Plans call for the street to be widened to four lanes.
Board member Mary Good said she didn’t understand why traffic that isn’t stopping in Little Rock isn’t using the existing bypass.
Board member Jay Chesshir said 80 percent of the traffic uses the corridor to get to a destination in it, while only 20 percent is going south to Pine Bluff or southwest to Texarkana.
Good said the I-30 project would expedite the truck traffic coming through the corridor to get to I-40.
Chesshir disagreed, and said it would disperse both the existing traffic in the corridor and increased traffic that will come with growth.
Board member Nancy Gray was concerned that the highway department hadn’t looked at morning traffic commuting on I-630 from west Little Rock, where residential development has continued to grow.
She said traffic from there and I-30 would be "colliding, if you will, in the grid right around where the Tech Park is." But Gray said diverting traffic from Capitol Avenue to the other exits makes the most sense.
The cost to widen the 6.7 miles is estimated at $631 million. A state sales tax passed by voters in 2012 will help pay for it. Construction is set to start in 2018 and wrap up in 2022.