Issue 1 Ballot Measure

October 19, 2012
12:00 AM

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Arkansas Section Members:

In 1999, Arkansas voters approved a ballot initiative that allowed the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) to issue bonds that funded a much needed Interstate Rehabilitation Program. This program allowed AHTD to rehabilitate more than 350 miles of Arkansas’s interstate highways. 10 years later, in 2011, Arkansas citizens voted to renew this much needed bond program which provided a funding mechanism to AHTD to rehabilitate an additional 300 miles of Arkansas’s interstate system.

This year in November, Arkansas voters are being asked to implement a half-percent sales tax that would authorize an estimated $1.3 billion in AHTD’s general obligation bonds to fund highway construction and improvement of the state’s four-lane highway system.  The revenue generated from this ballot initiative, also known as Issue 1, would be used to leverage bonds to pay for creating a statewide four-lane grid and adding capacity to the existing four-lane highways statewide as well as make much needed repairs to our highways in Arkansas.  In addition, a portion of the funds generated from this sales tax will be distributed to the counties and cities in Arkansas. These funds would be used by local governments for construction and maintenance on Arkansas’s county roads and city streets.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is concerned that our nation’s roads, bridges, dams, levees and other infrastructure continue to suffer from underinvestment. ASCE has sought to bring attention to our investment needs through their Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The Report Card highlights how infrastructure investment can lead to an improved quality of life and help spark a growing economy. An Arkansas Report Card is currently being written by state civil engineers.

In our role as infrastructure experts, we believe we have a responsibility to reach out to our community when we see opportunities for enhancing the public good. Passing Issue 1 will provide funding to a vital piece of Arkansas’s infrastructure—our interstate and highway systems. Highway construction under the plan would be used to pay for a four-lane highway system connecting all corners of the state which will improve the health, safety and welfare of all residents of Arkansas.

Deteriorating conditions and performance of Arkansas’s infrastructure impose significant costs on Arkansas households and businesses. Interstates and highways that are in poor condition lead to increases in operating costs for trucks hauling goods to stores, consequently increasing the price of those goods, and with the ultimate costs being passed on to the consumer. Additional costs include damage to vehicles from deteriorated roadways, increased time spent sitting in traffic, as well as the added cost of repairing deteriorating infrastructure.

The sales tax is designed to expire in 10 years after it is initiated. At the end of 10 years, the tax would be eliminated (unless voters approved an extension). Over the life of the tax, the AHTD estimates that this sales tax would support approximately 40,000 construction, engineering, and support jobs in Arkansas. This, combined with the savings associated with vehicle repairs and traffic delays will be a substantial “uplift” for the economy of Arkansas

ASCE reports in its recent report, Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure, that in 2010, it was estimated that deficiencies in America’s surface transportation systems cost households and businesses nearly $130 billion annually. This included approximately $97 billion in vehicle operating costs, $32 billion in travel time delays, $1.2 billion in safety costs and $590 million in environmental costs. Failure to Act also states that if the present trend continues, by 2020 the annual costs imposed on the U.S. economy by deteriorating infrastructure, such as highways and bridges, will increase by 82% to $210 billion.

Deteriorating infrastructure needs are avoidable if we are proactive and provide regular maintenance and expansion to our highways. As time passes and our infrastructure continues to age, we must find new and innovative ways to finance the critical transportation infrastructure needs of Arkansas. Our infrastructure needs far outweigh available traditional funding sources and ASCE believes that Issue 1 is making wise use of “non-traditional” sources of funding.


Jaysson Funkhouser, PE, M.ASCE
President, Arkansas Section ASCE


ASCE's letter of support of Issue 1

Scott Bennett's Issue 1 presentation