Arkansas Withdraws Projects as the Federal Highway Trust Fund Continues Route Toward Fiscal Cliff
LITTLE ROCK, March 24, 2015—The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) has withdrawn 56 construction projects scheduled for consideration in its April 21, 2015 bid opening due to continuing uncertainty of Federal-aid reimbursements available from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The estimated value of projects withdrawn from the April bid opening is more than $112 million and includes $50 million authorized by the Arkansas Highway Commission for its 2015 highway overlay program. This brings the total number of projects withdrawn from the 2015 bid openings to 61. The estimated construction value of these withdrawn projects is $162 million.
“Now that we have cancelled our overlay program for this year, there are few areas in the State that are not affected by projects withdrawn from the April bid letting,” said AHTD Director Scott Bennett. “If you stop and think about the economic impact this has – not only on construction jobs, but the lost commerce that results in each local area because construction isn’t taking place – then you begin to understand the trickle-down effect and the urgency of solving this national problem.”
Since December 2014, AHTD has been conducting an evaluation of scheduled Federally-funded projects prior to each bid letting to ensure sufficient State funds are available to fulfill commitments during anticipated reductions or delays in Federal reimbursements. Highway construction projects in Arkansas are initially paid with State funds, and then the State seeks reimbursement from the Federal Highway Trust Fund for the Federal portion of those payments. Without action from Congress, reimbursements from the Federal Highway Trust Fund are expected to be curtailed this summer.
“The reality is that over $160 million has not found its way into our State’s economy this year,” added Bennett. “Meanwhile, our State’s highway infrastructure has suffered severe damage from a harsh winter weather season. The lack of an overlay program is going to make repairing the damage that has occurred even more challenging. As the Federal Highway Trust Fund heads towards the fiscal cliff, we are not only facing reduced and delayed reimbursements later this year, we are also facing the absence of a Federal-aid highway program next year. Congress must act soon to solve this problem by reinvesting in our Nation’s infrastructure.”
Nation at a Crossroads
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has created a web-based infographic as part of a new campaign that calls on Congress to “think big” and focus on long-term highway infrastructure needs rather than short-term fixes which “kick the can down the road” and will only result in this becoming a recurring issue. States, planners, and engineers cannot plan needed infrastructure projects without committed and stable funding. The “Nation at a Crossroads” campaign urges policymakers to consider what is achievable in a long-term, sustainable source of funding to keep America on the right path. This investment will grow our economy, create and sustain jobs, and improve our mobility and quality of life. The campaign site also features a “state impact” section that provides state-level information showing how Federal funding affects transportation investment. At risk in Arkansas includes $490 million in Federal highway funding, $32 million in Federal transit funding, an estimated 14,000 jobs, and 220 projects. The site is available at http://invest.transportation.org.