Highway Funding Shortfall: The Facts

As you probably know, Arkansas faces a major highway funding shortfall.  What you may not be aware of is just how critical the situation has become. 
An independent study by Arkansas Legislative Audit estimates the state needs an additional $478 million annually, just to maintain the roads we have.  
The Arkansas Department of Transportation recently committed to seeking a highway funding solution in the 2019 Legislative Session.  That means NOW is the time for our industry and other stakeholders to come together and educate decision-makers on just how pressing the need has become, and why it is vital for them to act.  
FIRST, it is important that we all fully understand the issue.  Below are the FACTS that help illustrate the scope of the revenue shortfall and highway funding needs.  Over the months ahead, we will be reaching out with ways YOU can help educate others about the need for funding.
This is one of the biggest challenges facing our industry and our state.  It will take all of us working together for a solution. 
  • Arkansas has the 12th largest highway system in the country, with over 16,400 miles of roads. HOWEVER, we rank 43rd nationally in revenue available to maintain and improve our roads.
  • Design, construction, and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in Arkansas supports the equivalent of 35, 286 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state's economy. (ARTBA Transportation Development Foundation 2015)
  • The gap between the amount of revenue needed to maintain our roads and the amount of revenue available continues to widen. A recent independent report from Arkansas Legislative Audit finds that Arkansas needs an additional $478 million annually just to maintain the roads we have.
  • Only 18% of Arkansas highways are considered to be in “good” shape.  That means 82% of our roads are in “poor,” or “fair” condition.
  • It costs SUBSTANTIALLY less to maintain and repair highways in fair condition now, than to wait until they are in poor condition and have to be rebuilt.  An overlay costs $100,000 per lane mile vs. $1.5 million per lane mile costs to reconstruct.
  • To put it in perspective, even as the state's general revenue has grown, highway funding has remained relatively stagnant.   In 1980, highway funding was 14.4% of the state's overall General Revenue. In 2016, it was only 6% of General Revenue.
  • If road funding had remained at 14.4% of General Revenue, highways would be receiving an additional $453 million a year now.  (Note: That's close to the SAME additional $478 million we now need annually, according to Arkansas Legislative Audit.) 
  • We're moving in the wrong direction.  More than 70% of our highway, road and street funding comes from a consumption-based fuel tax, when the trend is LESS consumption.  Without additional revenue for highways, the funding gap will continue to grow.​
  • To make matters worse, we rely more than ever on federal funding – funding now in jeopardy, with the current administration warning states will soon be responsible for coming up with a greater portion of road funding.  Today, 54% of the state's highway funding is federal, compared to only 36% in 1993.  (The state expects to receive 40% less federal funding after FY2020.)​
  • Arkansas's highway funding need is dire, and now is the time to act.  Stakeholders, local leaders, and Arkansas Department of Transportation officials must work together to ensure legislators and other decision-makers fully understand the funding need and are committed to finding a solution in the 2019 Legislative Session. 
*Unless otherwise noted, most figures from Arkansas Department of Transportation