LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A national transportation group releases forty projects of need in Arkansas' transportation system just days before voters decide on a temporary half cent tax increase linked to transportation bonds.
"Increase mobility and freight movement, ease congestion, and they'll improve traffic safety," says Carolyn Bonifas," TRIP spokesperson.
TRIP is based in Washington D.C. and used state data over the last six months to compile recommendations for transportation improvement.
The group outlined 40 projects for Arkansans to remember before they vote on issue one, November 6th.A few of the projects include improvements to all of I-40, adding four lanes to I-30 in Pulaski County including the river bridge and adding two lanes to highway 67 from Jacksonville to Cabot. State Highway Department Director, Scott Bennett, says the research is no surprise. Bennett says some of the projects are already underway through the interstate rehabilitation program, but more must be done.
"Many of these projects, actually all of them will or could be completed within the next ten years if issue one passes," says Bennett.
State Representative David Meeks of District 46 disagrees, saying the state should pick up the tab for road projects.
"If we just take two percent of our general revenue that we have currently that would generate over 900 million dollars over ten years that we can fund for roads," says Meeks.
Bennett argues without the 10-year tax increase it will take too long to get around to major fixes.
"There's a real possibility that our federal funds are cut drastically in 2015, if not before. That's going to impact even our ability to fund some of the projects that we've already approved," says Bennett.
The half-cent increase will not apply to groceries, medicine or fuel, but will add to most retail purchases and prepared food such as restaurants or delis. Meeks says the increase is not necessary.
"Whether it be clothes, whether it be going out to the movie theatre or anything of that nature, all those things are going to be hit. It may, in some cases, only cost Arkansas $20, $50 a month. But when you think now about how budgets are tight and people are struggling to make ends meet. Every little bit that's taken out of their pocket is going to hurt them," says Meeks.
According to the state highway department, 30 percent of the tax, or $70 million a year, will go to counties and cities for them to work on their communities. Move Arkansas Forward estimates the tax increase would create 95-thousand jobs over the ten years, mostly in Arkansas.
Move Arkansas Forward and TRIP, a national transportation research group, shared results of a recent research report on Arkansas highways.
Issue 1 is an amendment to finance $1.3 billion in bonds for state highways, county roads, city streets, bridges, and other surface transportation with a half-cent sales tax increase over the next 10 years.