LITTLE ROCK — Bids on the first three highway projects to be built with revenue generated by a half-cent sales tax should be let within six months, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said Thursday.
All three of those projects are in the northwest corner of the state and designed to complete construction of the Bella Vista Bypass as a two-lane road, said AHTD spokesman Randy Ort.
Two of those projects, the U.S. 71/Bella Vista interchange and U.S. 71 to Arkansas 72, are expected to be let in December and the third, County Road 34 to the Missouri line, is expected to be let in January, Ort said.
Bids on three more projects are expected to be let by early 2015, he said.
Highway officials released a schedule of 32 highway projects funded by the temporary 10-year half-cent state sales tax increase voters approved in November to the state Highway Commission on Wednesday. The tax hike is to finance a $1.8 billion bond issue that will fund construction of a system of four-lane highways connecting all parts of the state.
Those projects will cover about 200 miles of roads, state Highway Director Scott Bennett told lawmakers recently.
Some of the larger and more expensive projects planned include widening Interstate 540 to six lanes from Fayetteville north to Bentonville; widening Arkansas 18 from Jonesboro east to I-55; expanding U.S. 412 to four lanes between Walnut Ridge and Paragould; widening U.S. 67-167 between Jacksonville and Cabot; widening I-40 from Little Rock to Conway; replacing the I-30 bridge over the Arkansas River; and widening U.S. 70 from I-30 to Hot Springs.
Bennett said the half-cent sales tax will generate about $238 million annually, with 70 percent — about $160 million — going to the AHTD with cities and counties splitting the remaining 30 percent.