Passing highway proposal benefits communities, spokesman says

Arkansas and the state’s cities and counties will benefit with street and road construction monies during the next decade if voters approve proposed constitutional Amendment No. 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot, a spokesman said Thursday.

Thomas B. Schueck of Little Rock, a member of the Arkansas Highway Commission, gave an update to the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club.

The proposed one-half cent temporary sales tax would finance a $1.3 billion bond issue for four-lane highway construction across the state and generate $700 million for cities and counties for local road and street improvements, he told the civic club.

No organized opposition has surfaced to the proposed amendment, he added. The tax would end after 10 years and would not be applied to medicine, groceries and gasoline or diesel.

The tax revenue would support more than 40,000 jobs on the state, municipal and county levels, he told the civic club.

In addition to providing money for four-lane highway construction, existing revenues will raise the amount available to $1.8 billion.

Schueck, a civil engineer with more than four decades of experience in forming and managing companies that are involved in heavy construction, said counties and cities would each share 15 percent of the revenue from the proposed tax.

Using Jefferson County as an example, he said the county would receive $650,482 annually and $6.5 million over a decade for road work. Municipal street funds for Pine Bluff would total $874,270 monthly or $8.7 million over 10 years. Projected amounts for other municipalities in the county would range from $98,430 monthly at White Hall to $14,962 annually at Sherrill.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department would establish a municipal street aid program along the same lines at the county aid street fund for city street and bridge improvements.

Schueck said four-lane construction proposed for South Arkansas include:

• Reconstruction of Interstate 530 from Interstate 30 at Little Rock to south of Pine Bluff and construction of links to proposed Interstate 69;

• Completion of widening U.S. 425 from Hamburg to the Arkansas-Louisiana state line;

• Completion of the widening of U.S. 167 from I-530 to El Dorado; and

• Begin the widening of U.S. 82 from El Dorado to Magnolia to Texarkana.

Without approval of proposed Amendment No. 1, Schueck said, the four-lane projects will take longer and cost more, and less money will be be available for the state to construct, maintain and improve secondary roads.