Budget Problems Could Hamper Future Roadway Projects

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, AR--Governor Mike Beebe has been praising the just concluded legislative session, but he says there are still unresolved problems the state has to address. Beebe says the state has health care issues and highway funding problems that he wants to remedy in the future.

The country's 12th largest road system is having some growing pains when it comes to future projects.

"There's no money for that right now, none what so ever," said Arkansas Highway Commissioner John Ed Regenold.

Regenold of Armorel says that flat revenues are hamstringing the department and could be even more of a problem down the line.

"Funding is already a problem. Right now, we are 15 billion dollars shortfall for the next ten years," said Regenold.

While some projects like the four laning of Highway 226 won't be affected by this shortfall, others like expansion of Highway 18 will have work done only when funds become available.

"You are talking on 18 to finish up a 140 million and we don't have 140 million," said Regenold.

Worse yet, some projects like future I-555 will remain in the future.

"It's put off now until they get federal money. We don't have the money. We can not do it. It will hold up making 63, I-555," said Regenold.

The cost to build a mile of highway is around a million dollars and with six to ten percent inflation increase in that cost every year. Making the price to keep Arkansas' roads in tip top shape sky rocketing.

"A million dollars is a lot to me. Ten million is a lot. 100 million is a lot, but to roads it's nothing," said Regenold.

To give you an idea of just how expensive it is to build a highway at a million dollars a mile, to pave a strip the length of a ten dollar bill would actually cost more than 90 dollars," said Regenold.

Without a number of these projects, the future growth in Northeast Arkansas could suffer.

"Roads are economic development, period. If you don't have roads, you don't have economic development," said Regenold.

In addition to road construction, another concern for the highway department will be the cost to repair and overlay current roads, ensuring a smooth ride in Arkansas.