By Matt Crafton – President & CEO of Crafton Tull
As a civil engineer involved with the design and construction of highways, bridges and city streets in our state, I understand firsthand the importance of adequate funding to support good roads.
A well-funded highway program is essential to all areas of commerce.
In 2012, a majority of voters in Arkansas approved collection of a half-cent sales tax to fund a major road improvement program. Seventy percent of the money was allocated to the Arkansas Department of Transportation to improve 200 miles of highways under a program it called Connecting Arkansas. Arkansas cities and counties evenly split the remaining 30% of the proceeds to help build and maintain roads.
ArDOT’s Connecting Arkansas program has completed 16 projects, and with 20 more under construction or scheduled to begin. They involve widening or improving existing highways. (Details are shown on the connectingarkansasprogram.com website.)
When considering Issue 1 this November 2020, Arkansas voters should consider why a well-funded highway construction program is important to the state’s success:
Safety. Well-funded highways provide a safe transportation system for the families, businesses, farmers and visitors of Arkansas. Roads and bridges in poor condition are inherently unsafe for motorists and other users. Deteriorating pavement, potholes, cracks and poor drainage all contribute to accidents on our nation’s roads every year. Aging bridges are a risk that no one should have to worry about as they drive their family across them. When designing roads and bridges, professional engineers first consider the safety of the traveling public in all design decisions. The people of Arkansas deserve roads that are designed, constructed and maintained to keep them safe. But it takes an investment of money to make them so.
Efficiency. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like sitting in traffic. There’s so much better use of our time than wasting it waiting in endless lines of cars trying to get to where we need to go. Where I live in northwest Arkansas, through the half-cent sales tax program, ArDOT was able to build additional lanes on Interstate 49 to make a six-lane freeway between Fayetteville and Bentonville. With the growth in daily traffic we’ve seen in our area, it would be hard to imagine the number of cars trying to get north and south with only four lanes. Similar projects were completed to add lanes between Conway and Little Rock and in other parts of Arkansas.
But, there still remains much to be done to improve our state’s roads as well as the safety and efficiency of our travel. If Issue 1 passes, ArDOT has planned another 10-year program to make significant investments in pavement preservation, bridge improvements, interstate highway maintenance, congestion relief, and safety improvements. Over the next several years, projects are planned to improve U.S Highway 412 in north Arkansas, state Highway 112 in northwest Arkansas, I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis, U.S. 270 in southwest Arkansas, and U.S. 82 in south Arkansas, among many others. Preservation and construction dollars would be spread all across Arkansas, benefitting every county in the state. (See ardot.gov/renew for details.)
Prosperity. A good transportation system is critical to manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, large corporations and small businesses alike. We cannot have the vibrant economy the people of our state desire without adequate highways, bridges, county roads and city streets. And a side benefit of road investment is that it creates literally thousands of Arkansas jobs in the engineering, construction and material supply industries, as the funds are reinvested in our economy to support jobs in our state.
Matt Crafton is the president & CEO of Crafton Tull, an employee-owned engineering, architecture, surveying, planning and environmental services company founded in Arkansas in 1963.