ROADS/BRIDGES: Funding concerns make victims of three Arkansas projects

State DOT scraps $30 million in bid letting over uncertainty in federal funding

December 26, 2014

There’s been much smoke blowing of late with regard to federal funding; it’s become a proverbial “will they, won’t they” dilemma. Now, however, at least in Arkansas, where there’s been smoke, there is fire.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department announced on Dec. 23 that three projects, collectively tapped with a $30 million price tag, have been excised from its January bid letting in anticipation of truncated funding resources in the new year.

This announcement is seen by some as the persistence of a pattern within the state, initialized by a total of 15 projects that saw funding-related delays in calendar 2014. Despite Congress’ summer deal that kept funds flowing to the states, bids were deemed too high to move forward. The sluggish development of new infrastructure remedies has caused frustration and occasional bafflement to blossom within some corners of the DOT—which was exemplified simply by in the recent news release by Scott Bennett, DOT director, who said, "Same song, second verse."

The projects removed from the list were: A major widening of a section of AR 1 in Lee and Phillips counties; paving AR 220, the only gravel highway left in the state, in Crawford County; and replacing a bridge over Cedar Creek on County Road 72 in Franklin County.

"Based on our current projections, if we execute all contracts that are scheduled for the January letting, the department may not have adequate state funds available to pay our bills during the period of reduced or delayed Federal reimbursements next summer," Bennett said, adding, much-needed highway projects. We are hoping that a long-term revenue solution for the Federal Highway Trust Fund can be found so we in Arkansas and across the country can continue to award planned construction projects and adequately invest in our nation's infrastructure."