Randy Ort, the Assistant Chief of Administration of the Arkansas Department of Transportation or ARDOT, was in Mena today at the request of State Representative John Maddox, to report on highway projects in Polk and Montgomery Counties and the department in general.
Ort told the small audience in the Ouachita Center on the UARM campus that ARDOT has enough money to address about 25% of the needs in the state and would need around $9 billion dollars in additional revenue over the next decade without any new construction. Major capital improvement projects, like the completion of I-49, are not included in that estimate. The completion of I-49 alone is estimated to cost $3.5 billion.
While Ort gave little hope of any I-49 completion progress in the foreseeable future, he did share that within the next three years, and maybe as early as late 2019, US 71 and State Hwy 88 inside Mena city limits would be resurfaced.
The existing 1/2 cent sales tax in Arkansas for highways will expire in 2023, and Governor Asa Hutchinson is already talking about the need renew it, but Ort said that while the tax is very important, it will fall short of funding highway needs and likely take increases in fuel taxes and registration fees as well as other revenue sources.
Ort answered a number of questions concerning I-49, the unsafe condition of US 71, passing lanes, the importance of highways for economic growth, and revenue for ARDOT.
Twenty-four people attended Ort's presentation today in Mena, 6 of those were ARDOT employees.
ARDOT maintains 16,418 miles of highways and 7,335 bridges in the state, has 3,700 employees, and is the third largest state agency.
More information about ARDOT is available on their website