Highway agency puts 27 projects back up for bidding

Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has taken a U-turn and is allowing 27 road and bridge projects to go back up for bids next month.

Uncertainty over federal transportation funding had caused the agency to pull those projects and about 60 others earlier this year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The total 87 projects are worth about $411 million.

Department officials credited the latest short-term federal funding extension, which expires Oct. 29, that Congress approved for the reinstated projects. The extension includes an $8.1 billion transfer of general revenue to the federal Highway Trust Fund.

Even without additional action by Congress, the department said payments to state transportation departments from the Federal Highway Administration are projected to continue until next spring.

"We would like to thank Arkansas' congressional delegation who all voted in favor of (the extension) and provided the money needed to keep the (Highway Trust Fund) solvent for the next several months," said the department's director, Scott Bennett, in a Tuesday statement. "This will allow some of the delayed projects to be phased back into bid-lettings scheduled for October, December and possibly February. This is great news for the state's economy."

The list of projects reinstated Tuesday includes two big ones in Pulaski County — the Cantrell Road/Interstate 430 interchange and the Interstate 30/Interstate 430 interchange.

"Both of those are very, very needed projects," said Tom Schueck, a highway commissioner. "Anybody that travels west on (Cantrell Road) knows it's an extremely difficult situation from I-430 west."

Meanwhile, the agency has formally asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson for $36 million in money from the state's general improvement fund to fund the remaining, roughly two-thirds of the 87 projects. A governor's spokesman said the governor has received the request and will evaluate it.

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