ARDOT looks at options for highway funding sources

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) - Toll roads and taxes are a couple of options the Arkansas Department of Transportation is considering to fund state highway maintenance.

ARDOT spokesman Danny Straessle said it's important to note that Arkansas has the 12th largest highway system in the entire country.

"With 16,400 miles, you can imagine that taking care of that is quite challenging," Straessle said. "Especially when we don't have enough money to take care of what we've got."

Most of the money the department gets now goes to the 8,500 miles of highway that see the most traffic.

Straessle said when it comes to the rest of the state and the rural, two-lane highways, there isn't a lot of money to go around.

The money they do have now comes from a gas tax.

Straessle said that tax hasn't been raised since the mid to late 1990s, and because construction rates have risen, the department is struggling to keep up.

"The revenue coming into the department is not keeping up with what it's costing the department to perform maintenance on our very large highway network," Straessle said.

Straessle said like many other states, Arkansas is looking for alternative funding sources to fund the maintenance of the highway system.

Those alternative sources include establishing toll roads, implementing new or raising old taxes, increasing the vehicle registration fee and performing revenue transfers.

ARDOT tweeted out a couple of those options they are looking into.

Straessle said they have gotten a large public reaction from that, which is what they were looking for.

"We're trying to stimulate the conversation," Straessle said. "We want to get people to think about the issue we're having funding these roads."

People in downtown Jonesboro had mixed reactions, especially to the toll road option.

Some people, like James Giltz, were in favor of the toll if it meant they could drive on safer roads.

"It's nice to drive on a road that's immaculately maintained," Giltz said. "Like some of the ones in Oklahoma are toll roads where there's no bumps or potholes."

But others, like Frank Plucinski, were totally against that solution.

"I've had more than my share of experiences with toll roads," Plucinski said. "This is a total burden that we don't necessarily need."

Straessle said this is nothing to get worked up about just yet.

He said any final decision will likely be made in 2018 or even 2019, and the highways won't see the improvements until 2020 or 2021.

Straessle asked that if you have any concern or a suggestion of your own to visit ARDOT.gov and complete their survey.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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