Featured in IQ: 2013 Volume 5 Issue 3
The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department recently chose Garver to manage its Connecting Arkansas Program. The $1.8 billion transportation improvement program is the largest highway construction program ever undertaken in Arkansas by AHTD.
Through a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2012, Arkansans passed a 10-year, half-cent sales tax to benefit highway and interstate projects throughout the state. Thirty-one projects in 19 corridors improve the intermodal transportation system and accelerate the widening and construction of nearly 200 miles of four-lane highways and interstates.
"This program provides a significant challenge and opportunity for the Garver Team," said Garver Director of Transportation Jerry Holder, Jr., PE. "We are excited to assist the transportation department in delivering these projects all over the state."
"As program manager, the Garver Team provides technical and professional expertise needed to meet the demands of the temporary program without increasing AHTD staff," said CAP Administrator Keli Wylie, PE, who serves as a liaison between Garver and AHTD.
"Delivering the Connecting Arkansas Program when the department is extremely busy meeting other commitments necessitated a new way of doing business," Wylie said. "Bringing in the Garver Team allows us to strategically focus our workforce and leverage the additional resources provided by the CAP manager and other consultants."
AHTD, the Garver Team, and consultants are all working together to meet several objectives, including completing design on a majority of the projects within five years and completing construction on a majority of the projects within 10 years.
When the program kicked off in April, Garver began an intense data exchange—a transfer of AHTD program and project knowledge through a series of meetings, document transfers and follow-up discussions. The exchange enabled the effective and efficient transition of program management duties and responsibilities from AHTD to the Garver Team.
Garver took the information provided, evaluated surveying, environmental, right-of-way, and utilities status of each of the 31 CAP projects and used that information to create a master schedule. The team also looked at the projects' complexity and impact to the driving public.
As of this fall, 20 of the 31 projects have been assigned to design consultants. Construction on the first project is expected to begin in 2014.
"There's going to be a lot of work happening all over the state," Holder said. "These projects will improve safety and relieve congestion along many vital roads."
According to the AHTD, the department has the 12th largest transportation system in the country but is 43rd in highway revenue per mile. The system has nearly 16,400 highway miles to maintain. A per-gallon tax is the primary funding source for highways, but with fuel consumption declining, highway revenues from fuel also decline. Seventy percent of highway funding is consumption-based.
Recognizing this need, in 2009, the 87th Arkansas General Assembly approved Act 374 to create the Blue Ribbon Committee on Highway Finance. The committee was tasked with determining an equitable and adequate system to properly finance transportation improvements in Arkansas, and to propose and recommend highway finance legislation for the 2011 session.
The constitutional amendment to levy a temporary sales-and-use tax was included on the 2012 Arkansas statewide general election ballot after a bipartisan vote in the 88th General Assembly.
With passage of Issue No. 1, the Arkansas state sales tax temporarily increases to 6.5 cents for 10 years, effective July 1, 2013. The design and construction of highway and interstate widening projects will be funded with the estimated $1.8 billion (comprised of cash and bond proceeds) anticipated to accrue from the tax support. The new tax will be abolished when the bonds issued to pay for the work are repaid.
Four projects along Interstate 540 help complete the six-lane widening between Fayetteville and Bentonville. More than 15 miles of widening are included through six cities. Also, the Bella Vista Bypass will connect with Interstate 49 in Missouri to improve transportation flow in northwest Arkansas and help separate commercial traffic from local city traffic.
View Northwest Arkansas Projects
One of the longest projects in the program includes widening 14 miles of Highway 412 to four lanes near Walnut Ridge.
View Northeast Arkansas Projects
Projects will improve Interstates 30 and 40 on the eastern side of Little Rock and North Little Rock while also widening one of the busiest bridges in the state, the Arkansas River Bridge.
View Central Arkansas Projects
Projects include a nearly 20-mile stretch along Highway 167 that will widen the roadway through four projects.
View South Arkansas Projects
For further information, visit the Connecting Arkansas Program website at ConnectingArkansasProgram.com.