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Special report| Staggering work hours might be one way to cope

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

― Aristotle

Local and state officials are warning of traffic congestion and longer-than-normal commutes to and from work beginning next year when the Broadway Bridge is demolished and a new one is being built.

When the bridge, which carries about 25,000 vehicles a day, is closed, commuters will have to use either the Main Street or Interstate 30 Bridge to get across the river.

“I think we’re all going to have to probably just suck it up and just deal with it,” said Terry Hartwick, president of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce.

A contractor for the $75 million to $100 million project is expected to be selected Sept. 17 and the bridge razed sometime next year, possible in the summer. After the bridge is demolished it should take about two years to build the new Broadway Bridge.

Scott Bennett, director of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, recently suggested that businesses with employees who must cross the Arkansas River to get to and from work every day consider staggering work schedules.

“If you have a lot of people coming to your business that are crossing the bridge – employees or patrons either one – one of the simplest and cheapest things that you can do to help spread out the demand is for folks to look at staggering their work hours,” Bennett said.

Delaying or staggering work schedules is something the highway department has done more than once at its main office in southwest Little Rock, Bennett.

The more than 600 employees in the building were told to stagger their schedules when one of the two elevators in the … story building went down and was repaired.

“We staggered work schedules … went to a little bit of flex time,” Bennett said. “You could come in 30 minutes early or leave 30 minutes early or you could come in 30 minutes later and leave 30 minutes later.”

Bennett said workers at the main office also were allowed to stagger their schedules when working was being on Interstate 30, directly in front of the building, about 10 years ago.

“There was a reason we did it … to give employees a better chance to be able to spread out the demand on the system,” Bennett said.

Hartwick and North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith both said recently they like the idea of staggering work schedules during the construction of the bridge.

“I would encourage the business community, especially f your business would not be hurt by opening maybe at 9:30 instead of 8:30,” Hartwick said.

Smith agreed, saying “it makes sense.”

“We do encourage businesses to work with their employees to find the system that works best for them,” he said. “The staggered arrival method could help everyone if enough people use it.”

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