Funding issues could lead back to some gravel state highways

Brad Smithee (Source: KAIT-TV)
Brad Smithee (Source: KAIT-TV)

(KAIT) - Nearly 30 years after Northeast Arkansas paved its last gravel state highway, there's talk of reverting some of those roads back to gravel

It's not state highways like Red Wolf Boulevard that are in jeopardy.

But rural, less traveled ones could be.

"If we do nothing different than we do today, gravel roads, they're not if, they're when," District 10 Engineer Brad Smithee said. "If we don't change something, they're when."

Arkansas has the twelfth largest highway system in the country, but it ranks very low in funding level because it's a largely rural state.

High traffic highways have to come first as far as maintenance and upkeep, but that's leaving a lot of rural highways to deteriorate.

Smithee said there's just no money left, and after a while, gravel may be the safer option.

"I could certainly see the potential out there for some of these roads as they continue to deteriorate," Smithee said. "They're going to be better maintained as a gravel road than they can be as a paved road without funding."

But Smithee said cities can help counteract this by partnering with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and helping fund maintenance and new construction on the state highways that run throughout those cities.

It's a much simpler process for cities to enact ways of raising funds than it is for the state.

Right now, Smithee said there are not specific highways in mind or a timeline on when they could revert to gravel.

But Smithee wants everyone to understand the extreme financial situation, and what could happen if it doesn't change.

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