There are plenty of things from the 1970s that look pretty bad in retrospect: bell bottom jeans, platform shoes, and disco music, to name a few. On a more serious note, the 1970s was also a time when many American cities opted to build major interstates straight through their urban cores. Little Rock was part of that trend with the construction of I-630, a decision that divided our city and destroyed once thriving neighborhoods. Across the country, cities from Boston to San Francisco have realized what a profound mistake it was to build interstates through their downtowns and have worked hard to remove them.
Sadly, Little Rock is set to exacerbate its past mistakes by widening I-30. This is a decision that ignores powerful trends around transportation and threatens the tremendous progress that has been made in revitalizing our downtown core. While other cities are creating transportation options that emphasize walking, biking, ridesharing and public transportation, city leaders seem intent on doubling down on old thinking and ideas that have proven only to divide us.
It also happens to be a $630 million project that can be scaled back. The structural issues with the I-30 bridge can be addressed in ways that don’t involve widening I-30 and a recent cost-benefit analysis demonstrated that the project will shave only a few seconds off of commutes. Should we really be imperiling a more vibrant and sustainable downtown to support a negligibly improved commute for those who don’t even live in Little Rock?