Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TOP STORY >> Cabot weighs in on road plans

Leader staff writer

Cabot city officials and the Cabot Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting on Thursday at the Arkansas National Guard Armory for the state Highway and Transportation Department to explain its 30-Crossing highway improvement plan.

The 30-Crossing is a 6.7- mile project that includes replacing and widening the I-30 Arkansas River Bridge, widening the interstate and improving interchanges from the I-30, I-440, I-530 in the south to the I-30, I-40, Hwy. 67/167 north terminal.

The project is expected to cost about $631 million. Bids will be accepted in 2018 and the project should be completed in 2022.

One improvement that may interest residents from Sherwood and other areas north of the river is a one-mile segment along I-40.

Drivers headed toward Little Rock on Hwy. 67/167 south, enter I-40 on the two outside westbound lanes. Traffic traveling west from Memphis on I-40 use the inside lanes. Traffic from Hwy. 67/167 must merge into the inside lane while westbound traffic must merge into the outside lanes.

A solution is to split the highway at the big First Pentecostal Church and construct a flyover. It will take I-30-bound traffic over both east- and westbound lanes of I-40.

Going the other direction, drivers heading north toward Jacksonville from Little Rock and North Little Rock will, instead of weaving across I-40 east to merge onto Hwy. 67/167, stay in the outside lane until after North Hills Boulevard, then loop onto a new flyover that will cross all remaining lanes of I-40 to merge onto Hwy. 67/167.

Meanwhile, through traffic eastbound on I-40 will remain in the two left lanes, go under the new flyway and continue east.

Cabot Alderman Ed Long is on the Regional Planning Advisory Council.

RPAC is an advisory council to Metroplan’s board of directors. RPAC studies and gives non-binding recommendations to Metroplan on planning issues.

“RPAC has asked for a 30-day comment period that (began) on Sunday and closes on Aug. 23. We need comments. Our comments and recommendation go back to the Metroplan board that are public and comment driven,” Long said.

People can find information on the project and have a chance to add comments at www.metroplanrpac.org.

“It is a good project but it does have its detractors,” Long said.

Ben Browning, the state Highway and Transportation Department design building project director, said, “Metroplan has a 20-year-long standing policy that freeways cannot be built more than six lanes. Once the freeways are at six lanes, money is invested in arterial networks and transit. When those are completely filled out, then capacity can be added to the interstates.”

Browning said the Highway Department has an ability to ask for a waiver for a particular job. The Highway Department looked at alternatives and determined that the corridor problems cannot be saved with six lanes.

The Highway Department asked Metroplan for a waiver. Metroplan wants to wait for comments from the public and from RPAC, and Metroplan will make its decision based on what they hear from the public.

The 3-D models and simulations can be viewed at 30Crossing.com under the heading “public information” then “videos.”