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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S


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The present and future needs of our state highways, county roads, city streets and bridges


proclamation in April declaring the necessity of a well-maintained road system. He referenced the various independent studies that have determined that the “state highways, roads, streets and bridges” in Arkansas are in dire need of construction, reconstruction and maintenance. The proclamation also determined that: (a) the revenues currently available are inadequate for the preservation and maintenance of the existing state highways and local roads infrastructure; and (b) the current structure of the motor fuel tax is inadequate due to reductions in revenues due to fuel efficiency and use of alternative fuels. The Governor appointed the 20-member Working Group on Highway Funding (“Working Group”) to actively involve the public to determine adequate funding for the “present and future needs of the state highways, county roads and city streets” and to provide the Governor with recommendations to create a more reliable, modern and effective system of funding by Dec. 15, 2015. The immediate needs determined by the Governor’s Working Group are approximately $160 million (allocated among the state, cities and counties as per the traditional 70-15-15 revenue sharing formula). On Dec. 3, 2015, the U.S. Congress adopted a five-year highway funding authorization that will increase highway funding nationwide. As a result, the Arkansas State Highway Commission (ASHC) will need approximately $50 million in additional state revenue for each of the next five years in order to match the additional federal funding.


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State, City and County Maintenance Road and Bridge Needs


The chronic problem the ASHC has faced in the last 30 years has been to maintain the existing state system — interstates, U.S. Highways and state highways. These maintenance needs of the ASHC for road and bridge maintenance are well documented.


rkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a


the Governor’s Working Group to attend a presentation and participate in a dialogue on the current and future maintenance funding needs of county roads and bridges in Arkansas. Sebastian County Judge David Hudson, president of the CJAA, moderated and, along with other participating county judges, presented the Working Group an


RESEARCH CORNER


Mark Whitmore AAC Chief Counsel


explanation on the funding limitations for present and future needs of the county roads in Arkansas.


During the 2012 general election, Arkansas voters adopted Amendment 91 of the Arkansas Constitution. This provided the ASHC 70 percent of a half-cent statewide sales tax for construction and improvements of four-lane highways and bridges. Meanwhile, the major ongoing needs of the ASHC for the maintenance of the thousands of miles of two-lane states highways (more than half of the entire state system) continues to experience funding shortfalls. Our two-lane state highways and bridges are deteriorating in the midst of the largest state construction program in Arkansas history. Despite the provision of 15 percent of the half-cent statewide sales tax by the people under Amendment 91 of the Arkansas Constitution, the challenges for maintaining the even larger existing system of local roads and bridges in Arkansas continues. During the County Judges Association of Arkansas (CJAA) meeting on Oct. 2, 2015, the CJAA invited


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The CJAA stressed that our road and bridge system in the state of Arkansas is interconnected among the state, county and city governments. There are reported approximately 102,594 miles of roads and streets in Arkansas — the state has 16,418 miles (16 percent); counties have 68,658 miles (67 percent); and cities have 15,518 miles (17 percent). There are 12,669 bridges 20 feet long or longer in Arkansas, and 2,591 are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The state has 7,346 bridges — 58 percent of the total — and 16 percent or 1,196 are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Counties have 4,297 bridges — 34 percent of the total — and 27 percent or 1,174 are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Cities have 1,026 bridges — 8 percent of the total — and 22 percent or 221 are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. This means that counties are (a) maintaining approximately 67 percent of our system of state and local roads in Arkansas; and (b) maintaining, repairing or replacing 4,297 county bridges (34 percent of the total), of which 27 percent or 1,174 are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The need for more funding for both state highways and county roads is plain. Failure to address the situation will only result in further deterioration of the infrastructure and the public safety of the traveling public. During the CJAA meeting, several county judges, including Independence County Judge Robert Griffin, Garland County Judge Rick Davis, Dallas County Judge Jimmy Jones, Benton County Judge Bob Clinard and Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison, explained the infrastructure needs in their counties. We also explained revenue sharing issues between cities and counties. While it is common knowledge for county officials, many state officials were surprised to learn much of the following: the “county road tax” under Amendment 61 of the Arkansas Constitution adopted by the people in 1982 authorizes the quorum court to annually levy a county road tax not to exceed 3 mills for the construction and repairing of public roads and bridges in the county where levied. However, ACA 26-79-104, a prior legislative act, purports to direct sharing of that revenue with cities (that of the amount of the county road tax collected from the annual property tax, not to exceed 3 mills, that the county courts (county judges) shall apportion


COUNTY LINES, FALL 2015


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