The story of the replacement for Little Rock's Broadway Bridge has been a long and convoluted one. Civic leaders called out for the new bridge to be an iconic structure that could serve to identify and shape our cities. Citizens were called upon to present their visions for the bridge, a design competition was held, and much lively discussion ensued. The result of all of that posturing, planning and promoting was....well... nothing.
The highway department wrote off the grand plans as being too expensive and presented a plan for a very basic utilitarian design. There was some push back from the cycling community and from Metroplan to expand the accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians from a 16' lane to at least 20', preferably 24', but that also went nowhere. That issue was addressed in this space back in September.
The AHTD was not really open to any change in plans and the neither Little Rock nor North Little Rock were forthcoming with any additional funding, so it appeared that plans were fixed.
And then along came Buddy!
Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines seemed determined to make the new bridge a landmark, so he went to work and came up with incremental funding and a new design. The Judge has earned my respect with his dogged pursuit of such projects as the BDB and the Two Rivers Bridge, but we're not quite on the same page when it comes to the Broadway Bridge.
The good news was that the judge's plans were slightly more attractive than those of the AHTD and that the new design included a 20' lane for pedestrians and cyclists. Unfortunately, that plan also came with a red, white, and blue paint scheme that has received very little support and has been widely panned.
Now, we're finding that the 20' bike lane will NOT be included in the Judge's plan.
This from Randy Ort, AHTD
Judge Villines responded to an e-mail from me this morning, acknowledging the change. His position was that in spite of his best efforts, the inclusion of the 20' lane was not possible without additional support from Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Metroplan. LR and NLR have shown little interest in providing additional funding.
I'm not sure where the ball was dropped, but this is a blown opportunity for our generation to shape the future of our city. A 20' lane would allow for bikes to be separated from pedestrians, making it a true transportation option.
This development is not the end of the world as we know it, but I would suggest that perhaps an improved alternative transportation option will have more value to future generations than will a faded red, white and blue paint scheme. It's all about the money.
The Metroplan Board meets at 10:00AM-Noon on Wednesday, February 27, and my understanding is that public comments are allowed at the end of the meeting. I don't know any details of the protocol, but if you have time and an opinion, it might be an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
Smaller Scale Disappointment: Cantrell Road Trail Juncture
Another project on which there has been a lot of discussion and little action is the highway safety improvement project west the UP viaduct on Cantrell Road. This place has long been a point of contention among cyclists and this construction job has done nothing to improve things. At first, the AHTD allowed the contractor to close the River Trail during construction. Much hell was raised, BACA got with the highway department, and a temporary fix was put into place to allow use of the trail.
Among other things, I kept hearing reference to the trail being re-connected to the sidewalk by way of a "sweeping turn" designed to make this very sketchy place slightly less dangerous.
No sweeping turn here! Just another right angle on to a narrow sidewalk. The newly poured permanent approach appears to the left in this photo.
I have been assured that the sweeping turn talk was not my imagination, so once again I turned to Randy Ort of the AHTD:
Regarding the River Trail connection to Cantrell, it was designed and built as you see it now – basically a 90-degree connection. I’m not sure of the origin of the conflicting information you and others received. Let me know if I need to investigate that further.