LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Metroplan board of directors has voted to exempt an Interstate 30 project in Arkansas from a policy that limits area freeways to six lanes.

The board, consisting mostly of Arkansas mayors and county judges, voted Wednesday, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ( ) reports. Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola wrote a letter to fellow board members supporting the waiver.

The 6.7-mile project calls for the corridor between Interstate 530 in Little Rock and Interstate 40 in North Little Rock to have either eight through lanes, or six through lanes with two additional lanes in each direction only for local traffic near the Arkansas River bridge. The bridge would be replaced.

The Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and other downtown civic and business organizations have supported the waiving the six-lane-rule. But several organizations led by the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods oppose the project, saying it is too expensive, too massive and unnecessary.

They also have said the project would be a threat to the ongoing revival of Little Rock’s downtown revival.

Rock Region Metro Executive Director Jarod Varner, who voted against the waiver, said support for waiver overlooks the “untold hours” the Metroplan board, staff and the Regional Planning Advisory Council spent “developing a vision for central Arkansas.”

The council voted last week to recommend against approving the waiver.

“The Imagine Central Arkansas long-range plan limits highway lanes due to our desire to create a balanced transportation network. Allowing an exception … is not a step toward achieving balance,” Varner said.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has earmarked up to $630.7 million in state and federal money for the project, which is scheduled to start in 2018.

The project is currently undergoing a required environmental review.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,

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