Although there where numerous issues discussed at the last BFCC meeting on June 12th the focus was clearly on the impending Broadway Bridge construction and the impact it will have on the Arkansas River Trail. Currently the River Trail follows a route that takes it underneath the Broadway Bridge but that will have to be closed once construction has begun due to safety concerns. That begs the big question of what to do with the Arkansas River Trail. The River Trail is an impressive system of multi-use trails in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County. The primary loop is 16 miles and takes pedestrians and cyclists over the Big Dam Bridge, the largest pedestrian bridge in the U.S.
Obviously closing such a vital multi-use trail section without some sort of temporary plan would be loss for all of the citizens who enjoy the use of the trail. Three key plans have been put forth to the BFCC: The first was the use of Markham st/President Clinton Ave. as the reroute for the River Trail. Many road cyclists already follow that route instead of going through Riverside Park. However, there are major concerns about the width of the road and the trolley tracks that can easily cause cyclists to crash. The issue could be solved by alleviating parking on the South side and installing sharrows on the North side. Concerns about alleviating traffic have been made and this plan seems unlikely to go forward.
This leaves the two following options as the most viable:
1. 3rd St – Third street was identified on the master bike plan for the city of Little Rock as a major East/West corridor for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. It has low traffic numbers and could be put on a road diet to create bicycle lanes. However, the major concern with this plan is the eStem school which is located on 3rd st. The school uses 3rd st. as a student pick-up/drop-off and it was designed so that the outer most lanes on both sides could be used for pick-up/drop-off leaving the inner two lanes for traffic. However, if 3rd st. where to be put on a road diet that would not leave 4 lanes which would lead to congestion during child pick-up/drop-off hours. However, 3rd st. is still an extremely desirable street for bike lanes west of downtown because it runs most of the length of Little Rock. This would allow it to be a long term investment into the bike ability of Little Rock and not just a temporary solution to the Broadway Bridge construction. Which makes it a better financial investment for the city as it will pay dividends over years and not just the closure period.
2. 2nd/4th St. – 2nd and 4th streets are both one way streets, 2nd being West bound and 4th being East bound. As they are one way streets both are more than wide enough to allow sharrows or even full bike lanes. The plan does not firmly say where the River Trail would leave Markham st. to hit 2nd/4th or where trail users would rejoin the trail but there are several options. There are two issues with the 2nd/4th street option the first being the speed of the traffic. Both streets don’t have high traffic usage but because they are both one way streets the speed of traffic tends to be much higher than comparable streets in downtown Little Rock. The second issue is that this plan would only be a temporary detour and would not bring returns on the city’s financial investment with years of usage and it would fail to advance bike-ability and walk-ability in downtown for the long term.
Please let the BFCC, AHTD and your local civic leaders know what you think should be done to keep our Arkansas River Trail system open during the construction of the Broadway Bridge. It is a unique aspect of Little Rock and it would be a shame to see it even temporarily closed.