(LITTLE ROCK) In a preliminary proposal to improve Arkansas roadways, a first-draft plan for Arkansas roadway spending shows lane additions to the Greenwood bypass and Arkansas 22 between Charleston and Fort Smith, as well as potential Interstate 49 construction in the Fort Smith area.
Dubbed the CAP-2 draft by the Arkansas Department of Transportation, the Connecting Arkansas Program-2 list is a “data driven” starting point work that will largely be contingent on the continuation of a half-percent sales tax next year, according to ARDOT spokesperson Danny Straessle.
“The governor proposes to make it permanent,” Straessle said. “This is a list of about 20 years of work.”
In a recent meeting, the Arkansas Highway Commission chose one of three options from the governor for directing funds. The option chosen directs $1 billion to interstate maintenance, $3 billion to pavement preservation, $1.1 billion to bridge replacement and preservation and $1.8 billion to capital and congestion relief, and $500 million to safety improvements. “Option 2” provides $800 million more in capital and congestion relief than “Option 1.” The third option provided no money for capital improvements and $4.8 billion on pavement preservation.
The Arkansas 10 Greenwood bypass project is estimated to cost about $25 million. The Arkansas 22 lane addition between Charleston and Fort Smith is estimated at $25 million.
The I-49 projects of building two-lane roads from Arkansas 22 to I-40, and from Y City to south of Greenwood are an estimated $270 million each. The valuations are done using the value of the dollar in 2019, Straessle noted.
The half-percent sales tax must be approved by voters. In 2012, voters approved the tax on a temporary basis to fund a $1.8-billion road construction program. If voters decide to make the tax permanent, the move would net the department an additional $205 million annually.
A total $300 million annually is expected with $35 million in casino revenue, $2 million in electric/hybrid vehicle registration fees and $58 million in motor fuel tax funds. The state receives about $447 million a year in federal money to ARDOT.
More than half of the state’s 16,000 miles of highways have pavement rated as D or F by ARDOT on an A to F grading scale. It is the 12th largest state highway system in the nation, and the CAP-2 draft list is subject to change based on future needs, Straessle noted.
State Senator Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, said he has been in support of the governor’s roads funding plan and the half-cent sales tax continuation.
“We’re on the list and we got some big projects,” Pitsch said.
A final draft of the CAP-2 plan is expected by September and will be open to public comment by ARDOT.