A state highway official told the Hope Lions Club that local highways are currently being repaired, and in some parts of the state, they are in better shape than ever, but he also cautioned that funds to maintain roads are not keeping pace repair.

A state highway official told the Hope Lions Club that local highways are currently being repaired, and in some parts of the state, they are in better shape than ever, but he also cautioned that funds to maintain roads are not keeping pace repair.
William Chatham, District Construction Engineer of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, also startled the group, saying “Believe it or not, Arkansas has the 12th largest highway system in the county, but we rank 42nd in highway revenue per mile.”
With such mileage to account for, Chatham said that as a state, Arkansas has S9 billion in needs, but only $4.4 billion in available revenues.
“Our capacity to repair or maintain these state highways cannot keep up with the costs; we are looking at a $4.6 billion shortfall,” he said.
Chatham handed out a Dept. of Transportation survey, which outlined various funding options, but the key question on the survey was “Would you support a new highway program that would generate additional revenue?”
Two measures to put before Arkansas voters, HB 1726 and HB 1727, failed in the state legislature last session.  HB 1726 called for a bond issue, while HB 1727 was to establish an additional fuel sales tax.
Chatham did not address whether the voting public would have passed either of the measures, or the current political climate against new taxes.
He did cite seven probable tax sources presented by a State Highway Task Force and estimates on how much revenue would be generated.
A proposed one-cent fuel tax increase would generate an estimated $14 million, while removing a sales tax exemption on wholesale gasoline would generate $108 million, Chatham said while showing a Powerpoint presentation to the group.
A proposed $10 registration fee increase for cars and pickups would generate an estimated $19 million, he said.
Among the bigger revenue ideas, mostly involving sales tax transfers or a one-percent general sales tax are not getting support from the Governor, Chatham said.
“He is opposed to anything that gets into the General Revenues, where some of those numbers are,” Chatham said.
The state also has a $10 million overlay program, but Chatham says those monies don’t go as far as they used to, and he presented a chart literally showing it.
“Twenty-two years ago, in 1995, 200 miles of highway could be overlaid with that kind of money.  As of 2015, using the same resources, only 54 miles of highway can be overlaid,” he said.
Chatham did have good news about the current highway projects, including the ongoing repairs in the area.
“About 30.6 miles of rehabilitation in three projects have been completed; and we have an additional 9.8 miles under construction now,” he said.
One additional project to rehabilitate 7.8 miles is still on the schedule, he said.
He also noted after a 10-year highway program, which ran from 1999 to 2009, that the state’s Interstate highways were rated as 72-percent good condition, after being rated as low as 63-percent poor prior to work.
The current Interstate program, started in 2011, includes the present-day work that local drivers have seen on parts of Interstate 30, running within Hempstead County.