Wednesday, February 06, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Mayors pushing good alternative

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert say there’s little hope that the North Belt freeway will ever be completed, certainly not in our lifetime. They have proposed alternate routes north of the planned loop that could be built in stages toward Hwy. 107 and on toward the Morgan exit at I-40.

There’s no realistic way to fund the much-delayed North Belt loop as projected costs have skyrocketed from $100 million to more than $700 million.

The North Belt fiasco is a typical example of bureaucratic incompetence, from the state Highway Department down to Metroplan and municipal goverments that could not line up funding for the second leg of the project or even agree on a route from the bean fields in Jacksonville to Crystal Hill in North Little Rock.

Short of turning the North Belt into a toll road, the loop as envisioned more than a generation ago will not happen. So Cypert has proposed an alternative, which would start running from Hwy. 89 to Hwy. 107, crossing Camp Robinson on a road that would have to be constructed without access to the base, then connecting with Hwy. 365 to I-430 and on to I-630.

Fletcher offers a slight variation to the alternative route. He suggests building an interchange on U.S. 67/167 in north Jacksonville to Coffelt Road leading to Hwy. 107 and then on to the highways in North Little Rock.

Our guess is their plans would save $500 million. Let’s pick one or the other.