Arkansas Highway Department could get green light for postponed projects

Arkansas Highway Department could get green light for postponed projects

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -

The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department had to postpone 15 construction projects statewide

because of a lack of federal funding.

Two of those projects are in Region 8: Highway 63 between Portia and the Black River bridge and Highway 226, the Cash bypass, in Craighead County

"We had to really stop and look at a major loss of our income," said Brad Smithee, the district ten maintenance engineer. "It's not a very good situation to enter into a contract and not have funding available."

However, these major road construction projects could get the green light. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would be a short-term fix to the funding issue.

The bill would provide enough money to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent through May 2015. The money would come from pension law changes, customs fees and a fund to repair leaking underground fuel storage tanks.

First District Congressman Rick Crawford voted for the bill to keep these projects alive.

The bill now travels to the Senate, where lawmakers will vote on several alternatives next week. Senator John Boozman's office said he will fight for a funding extension. Region 8 News did not hear back from Senator Mark Pryor's office.

One highway department employee hopes to get the funding available to finish what they started on Hwy 63 in Portia.

"That project to date is still postponed," Smithee said. "We've not realigned any funding. That one is still on hold until some other decisions have been made to proceed."

However, Smithee said the highway department was able to realign some funds to keep the Highway 226 project going.

"Our commission and our administration took a look at projects and decided what funds would be used in what direction," Smithee said.  

The highway department was able to enter into a contract several weeks ago and Smithee said the additional work should begin within the next six weeks.

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