Written by Arkansas Real Estate
Last fall, Arkansas voters favored a measure authorizing $575 million in debt to fund highway repairs, with about 76 percent of the vote counted in a special election called by Governor Mike Beebe for GARVEE Bonds. GARVEE stands for "Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle," a pledge of future funds from the federal government for Arkansas highways. By using the anticipated revenue stream for a bond issue, Arkansas highway leaders can put more money on the front end of a road program to see a greater return on the investment for years to come.
The proposal won support from more than 81 percent of our state. The measure uses an existing 4- cent levy on each gallon of diesel fuel sold in the state. The tax generates about $13.5 million a year, according to a statement on the state House of Representatives’ website.
According to a press release from the Arkansas State Highway Commission, “It costs anywhere from $1 million to over $4 million per mile (to rehabilitate and fix the roads), depending on the specific scope of work performed, to rehabilitate an existing Interstate highway. Although each job is unique, it cost nearly $5 million per mile for a full reconstruction of an existing Interstate. Bridge work can substantially increase some of these costs, as it costs anywhere from $63 to $106 per square foot for bridge work. To help put these costs into perspective, it cost less than $1 million per mile to originally construct Interstate 40 in the late 1960‟s and early 1970‟s from the Oklahoma state line to the Mississippi River, including right of way, bridges, etc.”
The program is expected to reconstruct nearly 300 miles of Arkansas' interstates and employ up to 28,000 workers in jobs related to highway construction.
Locally, what this means for Northwest Arkansas is that we will see some major improvements to the exits along Interstate I-540 to allow for greater visibility and longer merge lanes which will reduce bottlenecks during rush hour on I-540. Most of the exits from the bypass were originally designed and constructed to meet rural interstate standards.
The rapid growth of Northwest Arkansas has caused I-540 to no longer be a rural interstate, and the interchanges do not match the requirements of the traffic flow on our current bypass.
By having these improvements, it will help better regulate traffic entering and exiting I-540 which will help with overall traffic flow during peak times and will help reduce traffic accidents and delays for motorists. By decreasing traffic times, it increases productivity in local business by maximizing the efficiency of consumers and employees to get to their destinations in shorter travel times and also helps with delivery of goods and services in our region.
The largest benefit of these updates will be local companies that are contracted to do the construction of the projects in our area. This can lead to business expansion and growth by new job creation which increases our overall local economy.