Wednesday, May 11, 2016

TOP STORY >> Road work seen key to area growth

Leader senior staff writer

Most of the action and all of the controversy over the state Highway and Transportation Department’s 30-Crossing highway plan may center on expanding and replacing the I-30 Arkansas River Bridge and changes on I-30 between the river and Ninth Street in Little Rock, but more than 50 people turned out in Jacksonville to see proposals to make the north end of that project safer and easier to navigate for them.

The entire 30-Crossing project covers about 6.7 miles from the I-30, I-440, I-530 nexus in the south to the I-30, I-40, Hwy. 67/167 north terminal and is expected to cost about $631 million.

Bids will be accepted in 2018 and the project should be completed sometime in 2022.

Many residents of Jacksonville and Cabot are concerned about the difficult one-mile segment along I-40.

Called the north terminal of 30-Crossing, it is a dangerous one-mile stretch that leaves local traffic weaving and merging across as many as four lanes with through traffic—much of it big trucks—in time to either continue on I-40 or to get to the Hwy. 67/167 interchange.

“At 65 or 70 miles an hour, that’s a very short run in heavy traffic and nobody’s letting you over,” Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said on Tuesday morning.

“It’s bad planning. What they proposed is good common sense, built to accommodate traffic through 2041,” he said.

Most of the traffic coming south off Hwy. 67/167 onto I-40 is headed for the I-30 Bridge, according to Benjamin Browning, 30-Crossing build-design project director, who spoke at Jacksonville, where Hwy. 67/167 will be widened to Cabot.

Currently, residents of Jacksonville and farther north, going to Little Rock take Hwy. 67/167 south, entering I-40 on the two outside, westbound lanes, while through traffic from Memphis, including semi-tractor trailers, is in the two inside lanes of I-40.

The problem is, over the next mile, most traffic from Hwy. 67/167 must merge onto the inside lanes, while the trucks and other westbound traffic must merge onto the outside lanes.


This is a dangerous situation, according to Fletcher.

The solution is to leave the I-30 bound traffic in the outside lanes of I-40 and the westbound I-40 traffic in the inside lanes—no merging.

Instead, the highway will split near the megachurch and, Browning said, a new flyover would take I-30 bound traffic over both east and westbound I-40.

Browning said a new flyover would replace the existing structure, which passes over only the eastbound I-40 traffic.


Going the other direction, traffic from Little Rock and North Little Rock headed east would merge onto I-40, much as it does now. But those headed to Jacksonville and Cabot, 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.


The Highway Department says the 30-Crossing project will help alleviate traffic congestion, improve roadway safety, improve roadway conditions and correct deficiencies, improve navigational safety and improve the decaying I-30 Arkansas River Bridge.

The Highway Department proposed four alternatives for 30-Crossing, with most of the difference along the downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock I-30 corridor, but both the mayor and Alderman Kenny Elliott prefer the six-lane configurations, which would allow three lanes to merge from I-30 onto I-40 east in the north terminal. They say that would help alleviate congestion, and Browning agrees.

The public comment period for written comments for any or all of the 30-Crossing proposal is open through June 10. A public comment form can also be found and submitted online at the website.

The 3-D models and simulations are available at the same site, under the heading “public information” then “videos.”