Progress on I-30 deck park plan is moving slowly in its early stage

Required steps bog project start

Submitted drawing of deck park project. The drawing shows the location and style of the park, but does not represent the final design and amenities of the park. Drawing by Chris East of Cromwell Architects Engineers.
Submitted drawing of deck park project. The drawing shows the location and style of the park, but does not represent the final design and amenities of the park. Drawing by Chris East of Cromwell Architects Engineers.


Productive progress on the planning and development of the proposed deck park on Interstate 30 in Little Rock may not be seen until next spring, according to an email obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Little Rock was one of 45 communities across the country that received planning grants from the federal government in February for projects under the Department of Transportation's Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program.

The city's project would see a deck park constructed over I-30, located between the Sixth Street and Ninth Street bridges.

The engineering firm Garver wrote the grant application after a local nonprofit group, Fifty for the Future, committed $125,000.

According to the grant application, the study area -- covering the River Market, MacArthur Park, Hanger Hill and the area of East Little Rock adjoining the Arkansas River -- contains about 2,363 people.

Further work on the project -- beginning with accepting Requests for Proposals and choosing someone to conduct the planning study -- can't be done until required steps by the federal government, including a series of webinars, are conducted.

"We're now going through that process," Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said on June 10 at the monthly Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods meeting. "There are a lot of I's to be [dotted and] T's to be crossed before you can even select the person. But we are in constant communication with the federal government.

"There have been meetings going back and forth with the federal government, and just as recently as this week. A $2 million planning grant from U.S. Department of [Transportation], you can imagine the procurement regulations and rules are much different than the city's, and so it's not something that's very easy to do correctly."

Aaron Sadler, a spokesperson for the Mayor's office was contacted with a request for details about the meetings.

"We are still in the early stages of planning and contracting, and I do not have any additional updates at this time," Sadler responded via email.

Kathy Wells, the president of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, sent an email on June 7 updating members on the latest in regard to the deck park.

Wells said she had spoken with Amy Heflin, the Planning/Air Quality/Team Leader of the Program Delivery Team for the Arkansas Division of the Federal Highway Administration.

Wells wrote that Heflin had told her "the project was advancing slowly in the offices of federal bureaucrats, because this was the first time such projects have been undertaken."

Wells wrote that guides, checklists and procedures for the tasks had to be written.

"Once these are in place, weeks from now," wrote Wells, "the city can get permission to hire a consultant which will oversee the public meetings and drawing plans for the proposed deck park. That likely will be concluded next spring, [Heflin] noted."

Wells wrote that Heflin remained in "close contact" with Jon Honeywell, the director of Little Rock's Public Works department about the project, "so all will be in readiness to go forward once authorization comes from federal officials."

An attempt was made to reach out to Honeywell for comment, but he was out of office until June 19. Heflin was not made available for comment by the Department of Transportation in time for publication.

In March, Mayor Scott said there was "no target date" for the potential deck park's completion.

"I think we do know that the actual Interstate 30 Crossing project will be completed around 2025," Scott said. "We clearly (want to) take advantage of construction deadlines as best as possible. And so it could be anywhere between '25 and 2027."


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