Ark. Highway Officials Say Money from Surplus to go to Repaving

Arkansas highway officials say they’ll waste no time in putting to use $56 million from the state’s surplus that legislators and Gov. Mike Beebe agreed should go to roads around the state.

The money will be spent on repaving highways, not widening them or building new ones, according to Dan Flowers, director of the state Highway and Transportation Department.

Without the one-time money from the state’s $919 million surplus – already transferred to agency accounts – no repaving program was planned this year, Flowers said.

But with it, he told the state Highway Commission, “We can have a good, aggressive program.”

Commission member Cliff Hoofman of North Little Rock agreed.

“We can have a substantial overlay program with this kind of money,” Hoofman said.

The agency could seek bids on some repaving projects as early as next month.

In recent years, the agency typically has tried to set aside $30 million a year for the overlay program. Last year, the figure dropped to $20 million.

“It was either (use the $56 million on overlays) or no overlay program at all,” said John Suskie, executive director of the Arkansas Asphalt Pavement Association. “It’s going to help, but it’s not going to put us ahead.”

The overlay program can be likened to periodic maintenance such as changing the oil, which a car owner might overlook at the risk of high repair bills down the line.

“When they don’t do (the overlays) as scheduled, that’s when the deterioration hits, and it could cost three times as much to do the work,” Suskie said.

Ort said that, in addition to extending the life of roads up to a dozen years, overlays have another benefit.

“They provide a good, smooth, safe, quality surface for the motorist,” Ort said.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,