Little Rock — Bridge Service Suspension
The Arkansas Online site reports that Little Rock River Rail streetcars will not operate during rush hours on the Main Street Bridge when the nearby Broadway Bridge is replaced, a six month project. Traffic engineers believe most of the displaced motor vehicle traffic will divert to the Main Street Bridge so the Gomaco-built replica double truck Birneys will not operate during peak weekday travel over the span.
Transit officials said on August 30 that they are agreeing to a request from Little Rock and North Little Rock traffic engineers to suspend streetcar service during the hours when auto traffic is greatest.
The streetcars cross the adjacent Main Street Bridge, which traffic engineers estimate many of the 25,000 motorists accustomed to using the Broadway Bridge will use once the old bridge closes Sept. 28. The project will consist of removing the 93-year old bridge and replacing it with a new one.
Though the streetcars have a dedicated, non-paved lane across the Main Street bridge the concern is that the in-pavement tracks used at either approach to the bridge would disrupt auto traffic.
Streetcar motorman control traffic signals which halt traffic in all directions so that streetcars may pass through intersections, and engineers fear this would hold up peak traffic.
Jarod Varner, executive director of Rock Rail, estimated streetcar service would be suspended roughly from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.
Varner offered to provide additional bus service during the time the bridge was closed, but would require federal or state aid to cover the cost.
The interruption comes just as figures were released showing a decline in ridership. July ridership on the streetcar totaled 6,247, or a 45 percent less than the 11,451 carried in July 2015. Year to date ridership is 45,503, 24 percent lower than the 60,005 riders for the equivalent year-earlier period.
The agency blamed a shortage of events at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock and the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. Events at both venues attract streetcar riders.