Arkansas road project letting halts due to miswording

Nov. 10, 2017

$232 million worth of contracts will go unbid over the matter of two words

The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) has put a halt on contract letting for its 30 Crossing project due to a complication in the verbiage describing the purpose and aim of the project, one that AKDOT says will preclude federal funding of projects in the region.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Tab Townsell, the executive director of Metroplan, the long-range transportation planning agency for the region, recently informed board members that until the board replaces the words “operational improvements” with the more appropriate and accurate “capacity improvements” in the region's transportation improvement plan, federal regulations will not permit AKDOT to fund highway projects in the region.

The board voted this past June to describe the scope of the work involved in the project to remake the I-30 corridor through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock as “capacity improvements” in its long-range transportation planning document, titled Imagine Central Arkansas, which describes the region’s transportation priorities over the next two decades.

Under federal regulations, language in the Imagine Central Arkansas planning document must be identical to the region’s transportation improvement plan in order for federal money to be spent.

Thus far the move has caused four projects in the region to be pulled ArDOT lists of projects going to bid, including the installation of a traffic signal on U.S. 64 at Sunny Gap Road in Faulkner County, at an estimated cost of $200,000. The other projects that won't be up for bid-letting include rehabilitating the Old River Bridge in Saline County at an estimated cost of $1.6 million and the Little Rock Zoo Trails project, which is estimated to cost $480,000.

All told, eleven major state projects worth nearly $232 million are at risk of delay through the federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, unless the inconsistencies are eliminated.

The I-30 project, the state’s largest infrastructure project, will redesign and rebuild the congested 6.7-mile route between I-530 in Little Rock and I-40 in North Little Rock, as well as replace the I-30 bridge over the Arkansas River.

The projects could be awarded contracts in January at the earliest, if the board of directors for Metroplan corrects the inconsistencies at its Nov. 29 meeting.