- Associated Press - Friday, October 30, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The state’s top highway official has rejected a request to delay planning for a project to rebuild the Interstate 30 corridor that runs though downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1M1gLAd ) reports the Downtown Little Rock Partnership on Tuesday sought a 120-day moratorium as anxiety rose over the project’s potential effect on downtown Little Rock development and traffic patterns.

The project includes replacing the bridge over the Arkansas River and widening the corridor to up to 10 lanes in places from the six lanes now. An eight-lane alternative also is being considered.

It comes with an estimated price tag of $600 million and is the centerpiece of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department’s $1.2 billion Connecting Arkansas Program.

Scott Bennett, director of the state Highway and Transportation Department, said extending the time for public comment is “more appropriate” than a moratorium. The original deadline for comment was Nov. 6. It has been pushed back to Dec. 6.

He noted that since the first meeting on the I-30 project was held in May of 2014, the agency and its engineering consultants have held about 100 meetings with elected officials, stakeholders, community interest groups and the broader public. Bennett also said that refining the alternatives on the basis of concerns and comments it has received has been a “continual process” since the planning for the project began.

Downtown Little Rock Partnership said it is willing to give highway officials the benefit of the doubt in advance of another briefing on the project next Tuesday before the Little Rock Board of Directors.

“While there is still a lot of disagreement surrounding particular aspects of the project, there is currently a lot of energy being dedicated to finding a solution that works for our city,” said Gabe Holmstrom, director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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