Along with the major political races in November, Arkansas residents will have another choice on the ballot, and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spoke to Conway business leaders about what it could mean to Faulkner County.
Scott Bennett of the Arkansas Highway Department said that Issue No. 1 on the General Election ballot would result in a scenario where “Everybody benefits” as he spoke at the Conway Business Expo Thursday. The sales tax, Bennett said, would create $1.8 billion toward construction and maintenance of the highway system, including 40,000 jobs. Proponents of the tax have said that the tax would not affect groceries, fuel or medicine.
Bennett said Arkansas has the 12th largest system of highways in the county — larger than New York, California and Illinois — but it ranks 43rd in revenue per mile. Most of the revenue comes from the fuel tax, but with gas prices climbing, more people are driving less, and revenues have been smaller.
“We try to put as much of our money as we can into construction and maintenance,” Bennett said. “Our administrative costs are low.” Bennett said the number of employees for the department is less than 20 years ago.
Bennett said a number of projects that are on the board for Faulkner County include widening Arkansas 65 to Harrison, completing construction on I-40 to North Little Rock and widening Arkansas 64 to Beebe. He said it will cost about $9 billion to create four lanes on many passage ways across the state, which is a goal.