GOOD ROADS The Magazine of the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation
Arkansas Bike Trails Spark Economic Growth Project Begins to Widen Interstate 30 at Benton
Foundation Good Roads. Good for All.
Jacksonvilleâ€™s Bob Johnson One Mayor on What Road Funding Means To a Growing Community
THINK OUTSIDE THE TOOLBOX At Ergon, we’re developing innovative ways to help you stretch your budget and treat more miles in your network. Our growing family of products provides the options you need to expand your toolbox and maximize impact on your roads. Contact our experts today to learn more about the right tools, for the right roads, at the right time. go.ergon.com/toolbox
2 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
2019 EXECUTIVE BOARD
Dan Flowers, President North Little Rock
D.B. Hill, III, Vice President Little Rock
Bob Crafton, Secretary/Treasurer Rogers
Harold Beaver Rogers
JoAnn Bush Lake Village
Mark Hayes Little Rock
Mark Lamberth Batesville
Robert Moery Little Rock
Shannon Newton Little Rock
Tom Schueck Little Rock
Chris Villines Little Rock
Joe Quinn, Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org
ARKANSAS GOOD ROADS FOUNDATION Mission Statement
Bill Paddack, Editor email@example.com
The mission of the Arkansas Good Roads foundation is to promote adequate funding and financing for the planning, development, construction and maintenance of a safe and efficient highway, road, street and bridge system, facilitating statewide economic growth, thus increasing private-sector job creation and retention.
Celia Blasier, Designer firstname.lastname@example.org
Clay McGeorge Little Rock
Jim Wooten Beebe
Arkansas Good Roads Foundation P.O. Box 25854 Little Rock, Arkansas 72221 WWW.ARGOODROADS.COM Arkansas Good Roads @arkansasgoodroads AR Good Roads @ARGoodRoads
â€‚ Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 3
Update From the ARDOT Director
It’s an Exciting and Busy Time At the Transportation Department Scott Bennett, Director, Arkansas Department of Transportation
A challenge that the Arkansas Department of Transportation has addressed year after year is how to adequately fund Arkansas’ highways as we move forward. Gov. Asa Hutchinson led the charge in providing an answer to a portion of that question with the recent passage of his long-term highway plan. The new $300 million plan is the largest in our state’s history and will allow ARDOT to maintain Arkansas’ interstates in good condition, improve most highways on the Arkansas Primary Highway Network (the half of our system that carries over 90% of the traffic), allow more maintenance on lesser traveled routes and replace all structurally deficient and posted bridges in Arkansas. It will also provide a second Connecting Arkansas Program to address capital and capacity needs and allow additional funding for safety improvements. Funding Details The governor’s plan features two parts. The first is ongoing funding totaling $95 million derived from a new sales tax on gas and diesel fuel, additional registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles and dedicated casino tax revenues. The second part of the plan is an extension of the half-cent sales tax of 2012. The extension would total $205 million a year for highways, and another $44 million per year each for cities and counties. This portion of the governor’s plan will be brought before the voters of Arkansas in the November 2020 general election. Our department has spent the last year and a half traveling the state talking to civic organizations, chambers of commerce and other groups. We learned that people 4 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
want better highways, and they understand if they are going to get them, they have to pay for them. Polling shows that the people are in favor of a new program. It is an exciting time and I am sure you will hear more about the governor’s program in the months ahead. Even though it is nice to think about the possibilities ahead, there is still a lot of work at hand. This time of year finds ARDOT construction crews working hard to take advantage of the warmer weather. Construction projects are under way across the state that will help us provide the best highway system possible. New Corridor On State Highway 265 in Northwest Arkansas, construction is nearing completion on a new north-south corridor that will serve Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers. The new corridor will stretch from Highway 16 in Fayetteville northward to Highway 94 in Rogers. It will increase mobility in the area and take six to eight thousand vehicles off Interstate 49 and Highway 71B every day as motorists now have an alternative north-south route. Crews in Saline County have just begun work on making improvements to five miles of Interstate 30. The improvements will widen the interstate to six lanes beginning at the Sevier Street Exit in Benton and continuing westward to Highway 70. The project is the largest in ARDOT history at $187.3 million and includes reconstruction of three interchanges and the replacement of five bridges. In North Central Arkansas, motorists will soon see the completion of a project that is widening U.S. Highway 67 to six lanes between the cities of Jacksonville and Cabot. Improvements are under way in Northeast Arkansas on U.S. Highway 412 between Walnut Ridge and Paragould.
We thank the people of Arkansas for their continued support as we work to provide the best highway system possible for our motorists.
Update From the ARDOT Director
Work continues on the $87 million project to widen a portion of Interstate 630 in Little Rock. (Photo by Bill Paddack)
Crews are widening 14 miles of the highway to five lanes. Work continues in Central Arkansas on the widening of Interstate 630. This $87 million project will improve the flow of traffic by widening a two-mile section of the interstate from six to eight lanes between Baptist Health Medical Center and University Avenue. Completion is expected in the spring of next year. Crews in South Arkansas are improving U.S. Highway 167. Three construction projects are under way that are widening 16 miles of the highway between El Dorado and Pine Bluff. These are just a few of the major projects under way on Arkansas’ highways this summer, many of which are part of ARDOT’s two major road improvement programs. As of June, 45 projects totaling $998 million have been completed as part of our Interstate Rehabilitation Program. There have been 287 miles of interstate improved since the
program began and more are scheduled for the future. The department’s Connecting Arkansas Program, which is funded by the temporary half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2012, has seen 13 projects totaling $533 million completed, improving 70 miles of roadway. Nine projects totaling $526 million are under construction and another 14 are scheduled. Keeping existing highways in top shape is just as important as increasing capacity. Such is the role of ARDOT’s Pavement Preservation Program. Since the program began in 2016, over $384 million has been invested in resurfacing 1,402 miles of highway. Another 1,741 miles are programmed for the next three years. It is indeed a busy time of year for ARDOT. We thank the people of Arkansas for their continued support as we work to provide the best highway system possible for our motorists.
928 Airport Road Hot Springs, AR 71913 Phone: 501-767-2366 Fax: 501-767-6859 E-mail:email@example.com Website: www.bnfeng.com AN ARKANSAS FIRM PROVIDING QUALITY CIVIL/STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING AND SURVEYING SERVICES SINCE 1972
District Seven Employees Receive Diamond Award
ARDOT Director Scott Bennett (left) speaks to District 7 employees in appreciation of their efforts to repair U.S. Highway 278 after a tractor trailer of fertilizer exploded, destroying a section of the road. (Photo courtesy of ARDOT)
CAMDEN – More than 50 employees of ARDOT’s District Seven received the Director’s Diamond Award for their diligent work and quick restoration of U.S. Highway 278 in Ouachita County. Around 6:45 a.m. on March 27, a tractor trailer transporting ammonium nitrate on U.S. Highway 278 exploded after its brakes caught fire. The blast created a 15-foot-deep by 80-foot-diameter crater in the highway. ARDOT was given access to the area at approximately 11 a.m. after emergency response and investigative teams completed their work. The driver was killed in the explosion. Various crew members removed the damaged asphalt, contaminated soil and debris, and replaced and rebuilt this section of roadway. These crew members hauled various materials, spread
6 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
and compacted these materials, placed and compacted several courses of hot mix asphalt and rebuilt the slopes and ditches. They worked every daylight hour and opened the roadway to traffic in less than 48 hours after being given access to the site. Above and Beyond The Diamond Award recognizes employees that have gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose actions exemplify one or more of the department’s core values of safety, public service, teamwork, quality, integrity and efficiency. “The employees we recognize today made a significant difference among their peers, supervisors, and the traveling public,” ARDOT Director Scott Bennett said. “I am proud of what they accomplished.”
THE BOBBY HOPPER TUNNEL Celebrating 20 Years of Arkansas’ First Highway Tunnel
The Bobby Hopper Tunnel on I-49 in Northwest Arkasas is the only tunnel on Arkansas’ highways system.
By David Nilles, ARDOT A crowd of approximately 500 gathered in the rain on January 8, 1999, at the Bobby Hopper Tunnel to cut a ribbon on “new Highway 71” between Alma and Fayetteville. Known as Interstate 540 at the time, the new route traverses a total of 42 miles over the Boston Mountains. The highlight of the new roadway was Arkansas’ first highway tunnel, the Bobby Hopper Tunnel. Dignitaries including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joined all five highway commissioners for the event. Commissioner Bobby Hopper, whose term on the Commission
expired the week following the dedication, spoke about the safety the highway would provide for travelers. “That one factor alone makes this highway special,” Hopper commented. “This is a wonderful and historic day for transportation in Arkansas, with its high bridges and tunnel, this is a unique highway that will save many lives,” Hopper added. He also thanked his fellow Commissioners “who listened to me for 16 years about this highway. And I especially want to thank the Commission for naming the tunnel after me. This is the high point of my life and I am humbled by your honor.” A Closer Look The twin-bore, four-lane tunnel
8 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
ARDOT carries 23,000 vehicles per day through 1,600 feet of the Boston Mountains in Washington County. The bores measure 38 feet in width and are 25 feet tall. Inside the tunnel are five cross-passages allowing access between the two tubes, directional signals, 1,400 light fixtures, carbon monoxide monitors, jet fans, fire protection, motorist assistance call boxes and closed-circuit television District Engineer Chad Adams monitors the tunnel from Fort Smith. cameras to monitor traffic. Oversight Supervising the tunnel and keeping our own independent fiber network,” stated District Four Engineer Chad it in top condition is the job of ARDOT personnel at the District Four Adams. As needed, District Four dispatches Headquarters in Fort Smith. “tunnel expert” Gary Dewitt or “We monitor the tunnel from here personnel from the Area Maintenance using dual, independent computer Crew in Mountainburg when systems and a wall of monitors on
something needs attention on site. “While some components of the tunnel operations such as the lighting, cameras and computer software are aging and require continual monitoring, maintenance, and updating after 20 years, the structure itself is sound and should continue to serve the state and it’s visitors for decades to come,” Adams observed. “This entire section of Interstate 49 has served the state well for the past 20 years. The tunnel is obviously an important and vital part of this corridor. “Not only has it become a symbolic cornerstone of the route, it adds to the beauty and charm of the scenic drive between Interstate 40 and Northwest Arkansas.
MAGNOLIA STREET ROGERS, ARKANSAS
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 9
From the Executive Director
Don’t Let 206 Miles Divide Us
Joe Quinn, Arkansas Good Roads Executive Director (This commentary was originally written for Talk Business & Politics.)
The now completed 2019 Arkansas General Assembly session was historic for Arkansas roads and bridges as lawmakers passed a funding package that will exceed $400 million annually if voters agree to a sales tax extension in November 2020. A lot of groups that believe in better roads worked together in a political climate where aligning different points of view doesn’t often happen. A conservative, Republican-majority General Assembly came together and voted for new taxes to repair roads and bridges. In large part, this happened because of the steady leadership of Gov. Asa Hutchinson as well as Senate
and House leaders who knew it was time to finally address the fact that 25% of our roads are failing. The Legislature approved $95 million in annual state funding to address road and bridge issues. Another $205 million per year will go to the Arkan-
This campaign is going to have to be a priority for all communities. sas Department of Transportation if voters say yes to extending an existing sales tax. That question will be on the
ballot in November of next year. While these measures will channel significant new revenue to the state, millions of dollars will also go directly to counties and towns if the ballot measure is approved. This means your mayor or county judge will have the ability to maximize the impact of the funding where you live. Think Local People hear the phrase “road and bridge infrastructure” and they think about six-lane highways connecting major cities, but the reality is that the effort here is to upgrade local roads, with decisions made by local leaders. Our hope is that we can all come together to approve the ballot measure next year. Real progress comes when
Highway 10 near Waveland in western Arkansas. (Photo by Bill Paddack)
10 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
From the Executive Director
thoughtful people with different points of view align for a greater good. This campaign is going to have to be a priority for all communities. And if it is managed right, you will hopefully get a sense of what specific work can be done in your community to improve the quality of life if you vote yes. To be successful, we must stay unified on the campaign as well as lawmakers who came together when voting on the funding. Arkansas is not big enough for multiple regions to thrive if we don’t look out for each other. Voters in Northwest Arkansas are going to have to continue to say yes to new tax revenue if we want great roads, new hospitals and exceptional schools. At the same time, people in Little Rock
are going to have to realize they may think Northwest Arkansas communities have all the resources needed, but there are plenty of roads and bridges in dire need of repair in Gravette, Pea Ridge and Rogers. Political Trends Asking voters anywhere to approve or extend a tax is never easy, and it only works when a thoughtful case is made about the local need for the revenue. Bentonville voters recently overwhelmingly rejected a new tax to replace an aging county courthouse, while Fayetteville voters emphatically said yes to 10 tax proposals for a wide range of community improvements. Are political trends that different in Fayetteville and Bentonville? Maybe
they are, but we live in a world where voter attitudes shift so subtly that we don’t really know what they are at any given moment. It’s 206 miles from my driveway in Rogers to the state Capitol in Little Rock. What is clear is that smart private companies, local governments, elected officials and community leaders are going to have to keep in mind that we can’t let that distance make us feel like we are living in different states. As we think about the ballot question campaign that lies ahead, leaders in Little Rock, the Arkansas Delta and Northwest Arkansas need to remember that in so many ways, we have more in common than we sometimes think.
w w w. p e t e r s o n c o n c r e t e t a n k . c o m Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 11
Highway Program Map
LEADERS: PROGRAM MAP MAY EMERGE BY FALL Newton, Zook See Making Half-Cent Sales Tax Permanent as Crucial for State By Roby Brock Talk Business & Politics
(Photo by Bill Paddack)
Orange barrels line Interstate 40 in western Arkansas near Van Buren while improvements are made to the busy highway. (Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the Talk Business & Politics website.)
A three-day window in the legislative session that saw lawmakers, industry stakeholders and the governor’s office come to the table for a compromise plan led to the $300 million highway proposal that successfully emerged from the recently-completed 92nd General Assembly. Arkansas Trucking Association President and CEO Shannon Newton, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, said that an early February press conference was the tipping point for a consensus. “You had the legislative proposal,
you had the governor’s proposal, and you had the stakeholders’ proposal. And it was somewhat of a Venn diagram of, this is how far we’re willing to go and this is what we’ve got to have to call it a success,” she said. “I really think when we stood at the podium and the governor was there and Speaker [Matthew] Shepherd was there and Senator [Jim] Hendren and you felt like everybody was going to support this plan. I think at that point I felt like we were over the hill.” Public Opinion Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas President & CEO Randy Zook, who also appeared on the roundtable
12 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
discussion, agreed and added that public opinion on the condition of the state’s roads was also a catalyst. “It’s just public opinion,” he said. “Look, the experience with the highways, that’s the most compelling way to sell the need for highway funding is just to let people drive on the roads for a while. We all recognized that we’ve got roads that are in deteriorating condition and bridges that just have to be replaced that are weight-restricted or even marginally safe, so we’ve got work to do.” The highway plan that emerged from the Republican-heavy legislature and was supported by Gov. Asa Hutchinson will raise roughly $300
Highway Program Map million annually at the state level tax through the road improvements through an increase of gas and diesel that we’ve had and more to come, more fuel taxes, miscellaneous state revethat’s already funded.” nues, new fees on hybrid and electric If the tax extension doesn’t pass in vehicles, and a permanent half-cent 2020, Newton said our highway probsales tax which must be approved by lem will remain. voters in 2020. Not an Increase Zook said it is crucial that Arkansans make permanent the half-cent sales tax for roads currently set to expire in 2022. It will raise about $200 million of the $300 million needed. “Basically, we’ve made a one-foot jump on a three-foot ditch so far. So we’ve got two more feet to go,” Zook said. “I think the people are going to be responsive. I mean, they passed it with – Randy Zook a strong margin originally and I think people are used to paying it. It’s not an increase, it’s a continuation. So people “We would have a highway funding have seen the benefits of what they inproblem again if it didn’t pass. You vested in or agreed to pay for with the know, Randy alluded to the substan-
“Basically, we’ve made a one-foot jump on a threefoot ditch so far. So we’ve got two more feet to go.”
tial portion of the plan is the half-cent continuation, but I think based on the research that we’ve done, based on the results that the people have seen from the current half-cent, and the way that it’s set up to continue to feed back into the cities and counties so that people can see results back home, there’s no one that’s going to be left out,” Newton said. A map of how the highway funding could impact communities could be unveiled “no later than the fall,” Newton suggested. Input will be needed from the Highway Commission, the governor, cities and counties, industry stakeholders and citizens. “We’ve had those conversations, and I know that they [Highway Commission] are working on it now,” she said. “I think the campaign for the half-cent probably will kick off sometime a year out from the election.”
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 13
By Bill Paddack Friendly and engaging, knowledgeable and forthcoming, Jacksonville Mayor Bob Johnson welcomes a visitor to City Hall on a June afternoon and is delighted to explain a story or two behind the Razorback memorabilia in his office. It’s a terrific time to be discussing University of Arkansas athletics. The day before, the Diamond Hogs beat Ole Miss 14-1 in the winner-take-all NCAA super regional third game at Fayetteville to advance to the College World Series, and a couple of days before that the Razorbacks’ women’s track and field team won the outdoor national championship in Austin, Texas. A CPA, Johnson holds a master’s degree in accounting from the university and is an ardent Razorback fan. Through the years, he’s followed the Hogs at home and on the road, visiting a great deal of the cities that are home to Southeastern Conference schools as well as those of the old Southwest Conference. But engage him in a conversation on infrastructure and you’ll find he’s just as passionate about a safe and efficient system of transportation. With the passage of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s highway plan in the recent legislative session, it’s a great time to be talking about roads as well as the Razorbacks. Planning Johnson, you see, brings a unique perspective to a discussion of streets, roads, highways and bridges since he previously served as a state representative and as a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court. So he’s dealt with infrastructure issues as an elected official 14 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
Jacksonville Mayor Bob Johnson has also served as a state representative and a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court. (Photo by Bill Paddack)
on three levels – city, county and state – and he’s a strong advocate for adequate funding whether you’re talking city roundabouts or interstate highways. No matter whether it’s local or state government, Johnson sees good planning as a key. “Infrastructure, of course, is very important to any community,” he said. “You have to be really careful and spend your dollars to get the most utility for your citizens. You’ve got to have a master plan to work with your growth. You’ve got to have a good master plan and you’ve got to have the ability to see that through the best you can.” And when it comes to planning for the future, he suggests, “Don’t look at tomorrow. Look 20 years down the road.” Potholes Johnson has worked with Congressman French Hill on getting a portion of Highway 67 from North Little Rock to Walnut Ridge designated as “Future I-57.” And he’s happy, yes, happy, when he hears from his constituents about, of all things, potholes. “I like ’em to call me. I want ’em to call me,” he said. “How do I know it’s there if they don’t tell me. Our city street department and myself don’t drive every road. We ask the police to let us know. We want to know where they are ’cause if we can fix it we want it fixed. It’s difficult on their cars hitting those potholes. We don’t want them irritated. We want them living here and being happy.” While in the state Legislature, Johnson, 65, served on the House
Public Transportation Committee. He won a runoff election for mayor in December. He gladly fielded a number of questions for us regarding transportation issues in the Natural State.
Hopefully, the citizens will vote for extending that half-cent sales tax indefinitely because that is our matching funds to expand freeways, to build new freeways.
those grants they understand and have a visual of what you’re doing. For a city, you’ve got to have a working relationship. Know your district’s engineer. Get to know them by first name and call them and talk to them. And call them and tell them when they do good.
Good Roads: How important is it for an elected official to have a good working relationship with the Arkansas Department of Transportation? Bob Johnson: It’s invaluable to have that relationship. You’re wanting to do an exit north of town and want them to partner with you on it. You’ve got to have a working Name: Bob Johnson relationship to get Hometown: Jacksonville those. You have a Family: Wife, Laurie; five children; five grandchildren. problem with a road, Hobbies: Razorback sports, duck hunting. talk to them about it. You need a road Favorite Food: Eggs – fried, scrambled, a bacon widened, so you’ve cheeseburger with a fried egg on it. got to have that Favorite Music: My favorite singer is my wife. relationship. First Car: Chevrolet Malibu. Plus, they give Favorite sports team: Razorbacks and Cardinals. grants to cities to do What’s Always With You When You Travel: I like sidewalk projects traveling with my wife. We like doing things together. so you talk to them and explain Favorite quote or slogan: Act the way you wish you it to them so when felt until you feel the way you act. they’re awarding
The Good Stuff
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 15
Mayoral Profile GR: What do you see as our top needs in terms of infrastructure in Arkansas? BJ: I do applaud this last legislative session where we’ve done some things to increase money to the highway department. Hopefully, the citizens will vote for extending that halfcent sales tax indefinitely because that is our matching funds to expand freeways, to build new freeways. We’ve got to have those matching funds to do that. But the biggest need is for overlays and maintenance of your highways. Once you let a highway deteriorate to the point that you have to replace it, that cost goes up four, five, six times per mile. If you could overlay it and do something to keep it from hurting the sub-base, that’s very
important. That is our biggest need – having enough money to maintain the highways so they don’t fall apart, they’re travelable, they don’t have to be replaced. It’s a lot cheaper to repair than it is to replace. GR: What specifically would you fix or build with new infrastructure funding? BJ: Two or three things. Right now, we’re working on a project that is going to cost more than we anticipated. That’s building a bridge over the railroad tracks. You’re talking about your citizens not having to worry about getting hit by a train. You’re talking about people being able to walk over that bridge. And you get rid of those horns beeping in your
town all the time. Another project I’d love to see us work on if we had more money is more roundabouts. If our drivers would learn how to use roundabouts and would follow what you’re supposed to do, traffic never stops, it flows. When I was on the Quorum Court we built a roundabout out here where Harris Road meets Main Street. The high school is right down the street. We were having wrecks out there all the time. By putting in that roundabout – (former Pulaski County Judge) Buddy Villines and I worked on it, he funded it for us – we haven’t had a serious accident since. With roundabouts, if used properly, traffic flow never stops and there are no wrecks.
With additional infrastructure funding, Johnson would like to see his city construct more roundabouts to keep traffic flowing. (Photo by Bill Paddack)
16 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
Mayoral Profile City of Jacksonville At a Glance Address: 1 Municipal Drive, Jacksonville, AR 72076 Phone: 501-982-3146 Website: www.cityofjacksonville.net Population: “We should be at least 31,500 in the next Census,” Mayor Bob Johnson says. Notable: Home of the Little Rock Air Force Base. Library: The Central Arkansas Library System includes the Esther Dewitt Nixon Library in Jacksonville.
ON THE COVER
Mayor Bob Johnson in his office at Jacksonville City Hall. (Photo by Bill Paddack)
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 17
By the Numbers The percentage of traffic made up by trucks, according to ARDOT, on I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis.
River Bridge Construction’s bid approved by the Arkansas State Highway Commission in April for improvements to a roadway in Phillips County. The Newkirk, Okla., company is replacing two bridge structures on State Highway 316 over Coffee Creek, south of Marvell.
The average number of fatal highway crashes in Arkansas per year from 2013-17, according to Fatality Analysis Reporting System data, with a five-year high of 504 crashes and 561 deaths in 2016.
Price tag of the bid opened in April by ARDOT for Jet Asphalt & Rock Co. of El Dorado to resurface a 16.75-mile section of U.S. Highway 82 in Lafayette County from the Miller County line to the Columbia County line.
In a report – “Repair Priorities 2019” – published in May by the groups Transportation for America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, this is the amount estimated that it would cost per year over six years to keep existing roads in the U.S. in good condition and fix the roads in poor condition.
Voters will decide in the November 2020 election if a half-cent sales tax to help fund highways will become permanent.
The amount of money Arkansas will receive from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program to improve the signage and pavement markings at 298 at-grade highway-railway crossings on state and U.S. routes. Fifty-two counties will benefit from installation of 133 Advanced Warning Signs, 473 Railroad Pavement Marking Symbols and 494 Stop Lines, according to ARDOT. Director Scott Bennett said ARDOT “will utilize these funds to help repair and upgrade Arkansas’ rail infrastructure. In turn, this will increase safety at hundreds of crossings.” 18 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
Food for Thought
INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS Items Congress Should Address to Repair and Rebuild Our System Congressman Rick Crawford
Editor’s Note: This recent edition of Congressman Rick Crawford’s weekly e-newsletter addresses infrastructure issues. He serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as well as its Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials and the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. Crawford, who represents Arkansas’ First Congressional District, also serves on the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We must work to fundamentally change the way we fund our nation’s highways. After decades of an improving fuel economy, fiscal mismanagement and the transition to electric vehicles, the gas tax is now an inappropriate means to fund the highway trust fund. Additionally, the gas tax is inherently regressive on rural drivers, since our vehicles are often far less fuel efficient than those driven in urban areas. Evolving technology and the widespread proliferation of smartphones have now made alternatives to the gas tax possible, and I look forward to exploring those options with my colleagues. Rail Transport We must protect America’s rolling stock industry from foreign takeover or suppression. Rolling stock
President Donald Trump made infrastructure a key promise, and I firmly believe that a bipartisan infrastructure bill will materialize. manufacturing is an important industry in the First District, and it is one that is being targeted by our adversaries. Chinese Communist Party white papers have identified several key industries that they desire to takeover on a global scale, including both transit and freight rail rolling stock. The free market in rail rolling stock must be preserved. I also look forward to working with my colleagues to improve rail grade crossings. Federal programs have been immensely successful at improving safety at grade crossings, but there is still work to be done. Immobile trains can often block grade crossings, especially in smaller towns. While inconvenient, this can also be dangerous because it can block emergency vehicles. Both the railroads and the government want to solve the issue, and I look forward to working with both to do so.
Hours of Service The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate from MAP-21 has been implemented for a year, promoting safety on our highways. (The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, MAP-21, is a funding and authorization bill to govern federal surface transportation spending. It was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2012.) While there has been significant pushback in the industry, the problem does not stem from the technology, but rather with the hours of service (HOS) regulations the ELD is meant to record. To that end, last Congress I introduced H.R. 6178 to correct and modernize HOS regulations and ELD usage. The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently involved in rulemaking to improve HOS, which I hope the committee will support and offer any needed input to promote safety and efficiency for our commercial drivers. President Donald Trump made infrastructure a key promise, and I firmly believe that a bipartisan infrastructure bill will materialize. I look forward to working with President Trump and my colleagues in Congress to repair and rebuild our system.
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 19
ON THE TRAIL TO THE FUTURE
Arkansas Bike Trails Driving Local Revenue and Vibrant Communities By Joe Quinn
(Photo by Michael Drager and IMBA)
Brendan Quirk was selling bicycles on the internet when many Americans really didn’t understand you could buy anything online. He steadily grew Competitive Cyclist, his Little Rockbased bicycle business, for 12 years, and then sold it to backcountry.com. He moved his family to Utah to work for that company, and then made a career shift to join the executive team at Rapha, a London-based cycling apparel brand. His life has
come full circle now as he’s back in Arkansas thinking through strategies to grow both on-road and mountain biking. The Bentonville-based Runway Group led by Tom and Steuart Walton is focused on how Arkansas can do unique things to revitalize public spaces and improve the quality of life in any community. Quirk is part of a Runway Group team working in casual offices overlooking the
20 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
Bentonville town square. Quirk believes all Arkansas communities should be integrating bike and walking trail strategies into discussions about economic development and quality of life. A recent economic impact study shows that in 2017 alone biking trails in Benton and Washington counties resulted in $137 million in economic activity. “If you live in the upper Midwest,
you can’t ride bikes in the spring, Political so folks come down here because Support of our reputation for fantastic riding The rapidly and fun things you can do off the growing bike. Bentonville gets covered up in system of cars with license plates from Illinois, bike trails in Minnesota, Michigan and others,” Arkansas is in Quirk said. “We’re really starting to large part due get known for our riding and all the to a changing other things we have to offer. It’s part culture, but it’s of our identity and culture.” also advancing Northwest Arkansas bike trail because development started modestly in bikers have 2007 when Sam Walton’s grandson found support Tom started laying out the first trail among the with a pick and shovel. Today that 135 legislators work has expanded to more than at the state 400 miles of trails that benefit the Capitol. “There is a cycling movement region in terms of better health, local in Arkansas that is happening fast, business development with stores and we are easily in the top 20% selling helmets and bikes, and tourism of bike friendly states nationwide,” growth with riders filling local hotels Quirk said. “Governor Hutchinson and restaurants. That first simple has shown amazing leadership in trail is now part of a much larger supporting this effort, and Arkansas system that features some of the most Parks and Tourism has been fully sophisticated mountain trails in the engaged from the start.” country. During the 2019 legislative session, In some ways the discussion of Arkansas lawmakers unified behind how to integrate walking and biking several measures to make the state trails into the fabric of a community bike friendly. The “Idaho Stop” bill is part of a larger was passed that and longer-term road allows riders to discussion facing all “We need to build treat a stop sign states. Transportation a yield sign, roads that can as is changing and a red light rapidly, and future handle all modes of as a stop sign. generations will want The law makes transportation.” it safer for riders to get from one point – Brendan Quirk to pass through to another without dealing with traffic intersections and lights or parking. Ride-share programs keeps bike traffic moving. will only continue to grow. Quirk says Two years ago, the legislative the model of one car per Arkansan support was evident when the General isn’t going away anytime soon, “but Assembly passed one of the most we need to think about how we are wide-ranging measures in America going to build highways that are future to allow the use of electric bikes (eproof. We need to build roads that can bikes) anywhere. An electric bike has handle all modes of transportation.” a small motor that allows the bike to
(Photo by Michael Drager and IMBA)
gain speed as the rider pedals faster. Arkansas is now allowing electric bike riders in state parks when some states have resisted that. Quirk sees Arkansas legislators sending a message to tourists and residents alike that the state is supportive of both on-road and mountain bikers. Finding Local Funding Quirk says any community or county in Arkansas can get involved in this effort to attract more sales and tourism dollars with both paved trails and mountain trails. Currently a number of federal grants are available for communities exploring the installation of paved trails. “There are a lot of elected officials who have gone to the wars on federal grants,” he said. “They understand how to apply for these grants. There are plenty of county judges and planning commissioners who know how to navigate that maze. The first thing any elected official should do is look in their Rolodex for the names of people they can learn from. Reach out and you will learn a ton.” Access for All Families If a community does get trails installed, there is a need to build
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 21
Bike Trails programs to make sure families can access bikes and trails regardless of income level. Off-road bikes can be expensive, but a growing number of programs collect used bikes and refurbish them for kids. Pedal It Forward is a Northwest Arkansas non-profit dedicated to providing bikes to people of all income levels and helping the sport avoid the stereotype of mountain biking being just for affluent families. The Jones Center in Springdale is an example of a facility providing readymade access to cycling. A mountain bike skills park and a pump track sit across its parking lot, and it’s a short ride to the immensely popular Fitzgerald Mountain Trail. Quirk calls it “one of the most beautiful trails in all of the Central Time Zone.” The growth of trails is happening at both the state and local level. The Arkansas State Park system recently announced its Monument Trails program – a plan to open world-class mountain bike trails in six of its parks. The first Monument Trail opening was
unveiled at Hobbs State Park in June, and work is underway at Mt. Nebo with four more systems to come after that. The River Trail in Little Rock has been a huge success. And the county judges in Pulaski, Saline and Garland counties have come together to rally support behind the proposed Southwest Trail. Quirk says former Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines has an “amazing legacy” of committing to trailbuilding long before most communities were even thinking about cycling. “The River Trail in Little Rock and North Little Rock is an Arkansas gem,” Quirk says. Similarly, Northwest Arkansas’ Razorback Regional Greenway brings together multiple communities and gives riders of all levels access to a safe, enjoyable riding environment. In Arkansas the public and private sectors are working together to send a clear message that the state understands how local communities will benefit from trail system strategies
that integrate with road and bridge strategies. The one major thing any company is looking for when evaluating a site to locate is the ability of a community to offer a high-quality workforce. Without that workforce, it’s virtually impossible to attract new employers. A thriving bike trail system can be an important element of the package a city or town uses to sell itself. Bike trails help attract and retain a new generation of workers looking for flexible work schedules, craft beer, trails and other amenities. Changing the Culture On a recent overcast afternoon, Quirk is sitting in his office talking about eight people from Norway who just came to Bentonville to study how the bike economy has exploded here. He says wherever he goes in the country or world people tell him, “I want to come to Northwest Arkansas and ride my bike.” At trade shows, bike trails are now seen as a defining feature of any community. Quirk was raised in Little Rock, where his father was a physician at UAMS. He is amazed at some of the things happening in Northwest Arkansas, but quick to point out that Little Rock or any other city or town in Arkansas can also generate the new revenues that come with bike trails. It’s often more about a culture change than it is just about resources. When not meeting with bike tourists, Quirk finds time to ride 50 or 60 miles on weekends. Some days his 14-year-old son rides with him. As he pedals, he sometimes thinks about what is happening here. “There is a movement about cycling in Arkansas that is happening very fast and with great innovation,” he said. “There is also more public-private collaboration than we normally see. How we are pushing this is becoming a defining (Photo by Michael Drager and IMBA) characteristic of our state.” 22 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
To Our Valued AGRF Members: Thank You!
Thanks for supporting us and helping us tell the story of why good roads and bridges matter. AGC Arkansas Alec Farmer APAC-Central, Inc. APAC-Tennessee, Inc. Arkadelphia Alliance Arkansas Asphalt Pavement Association Arkansas Concrete Arkansas Department of Transportation Arkansas Farm Bureau Arkansas Municipal League Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Arkansas Trucking Assocation Ash Grove Cement Company Association of Arkansas Counties/County Judges Atlas Asphalt, Inc. (Jamestown Investments) B & F Engineering, Inc. Bank of Delight Bob Crafton Bobby Glover Burns & McDonnell Clark Machinery Company Commercial Bank - Monticello Contractorâ€™s Specialty Service Company Cowling Title Crafton-Tull & Associates Crisp Contractors Curt Green & Company, LLC D.B. Hill Contracting Dan Flowers David Howard Delta Asphalt Dermott Industrial Developement Dumas Chamber of Commerce Eagle Bank and Trust Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce First Community Bank of Batesville FM Structural Plastic Technology Forsgren, Inc. Garver LLC Harold Beaver Hines Trucking Inc. Horatio State Bank Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce Hudson, Cisne & Company Hutchens Construction Company I 49 International Coalition Jack Buffington
Jeffrey Sand Company Jensen Construction Company Jim Wooten JoAnne Bush Johnnie Bolin Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce Kiewit Company Koss LaCroix Optical Company Larco, Inc. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Lion Oil Company M & T Paving and Construction Company, Inc. Maxwell Hardwood Flooring McGeorge Contracting Company, Inc. Merchants & Farmers Bank Midwest Lime Company Millar, Inc. Mobley General Contractors Monticello Economic Developement Commission Murphy USA NE Ark. Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority NWA Council Ohlendorf Investment Company OK AR Chapter American Concrete Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce Philip Taldo Razorback Concrete Company Riceland Foods, Inc. Riggs CAT Robert Moery Robert S. Moore, Jr. Rogers Group, Inc. Ronnie Duffield Gravel Company Ryburn Motor Company, Inc. Scott Equipment Springdale Chamber of Commerce SW AR Planning & Development District Sweetser Construction Time Striping, Inc. Tom Schueck University of Arkansas Upper SW Regional Solid Waste Management District Walmart Weaver-Bailey Contractors, Inc. Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority White River Health Systems â€‚ Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 23
ENHANCING I-30 AT BENTON
Officials Welcome Project to Widen More Than Five Miles of Interstate to Six Lanes By Bill Paddack Leaders in Benton are embracing the current construction project on the interstate that runs through their city, and they’re more than willing to put up with an estimated three and a half years of lane closures, delays, traffic shifts and truckloads of orange barrels in exchange for what they see as benefits down the road. In May, Johnson Brothers Corp., a Southland Co., of Roanoke, Texas, began erosion control on the $187.3 million project to widen five and a half miles of Interstate 30 from four to six lanes beginning from the Sevier Street exit in the Saline County seat to just west of the interchange with U.S. Highway 70. According to the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT), it’s the single-largest contract ever awarded by the Arkansas Highway Commission. The project includes realigning the interchange and ramps at U.S. Highway 67, a roundabout at South Street on the westbound I-30 frontage road and bridge construction over the Saline River. ‘Magnificent for Our City’ Benton Mayor Tom Farmer sees the advantages the completed work will bring, including for the location of a new career and technical education (CTE) facility for Saline County students that was approved by voters in November. “The widening of I-30 west will only help the growth of the City of Benton,” Farmer said. “We all understand that for the next
three years or so that it will be an inconvenience, but we also know that once the product is complete it will be magnificent for our city. “With the CTE going in at Exit 114 and the fact that the school district purchased land there with expectations of putting a school at Exit 114 this will benefit everyone in that area.” Farmer commended the Department of Transportation for its preparations prior to the start of construction. “ARDOT has done an outstanding job of thinking outside the box and getting everyone information on what is going on,” he said. “They have also utilized some of our local businesses in the project. Our emergency response teams have been kept in the loop, which has allowed them to understand how they might assist if needed. “We look forward to the finished product, but we cannot say that the next
24 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
few years will not be difficult with traffic and the delays it will cause.” Economic Aid Benton Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Gary James expects the completed project to be good for business. “Benton and Saline County are privileged to be a part of the growth of Central Arkansas,” James said. “We look forward to how this project will improve the safety of visitors and our
was a truck driver, so I understand following projected schedule: citizens, and how it will positively how important infrastructure is to • By mid 2020, eastbound traffic will affect the economic development of our city, our state and our nation. move onto new pavement in the mediour area.” But before the session I probably an. Concrete barriers will be on both State Rep. Jasen Kelly, R-Benton, didn’t fully understand that our roads sides for eastbound traffic. is understandably delighted with the and interstates are the heartbeat of • By mid 2021, eastbound traffic will project since it goes through the heart economic development.” move onto completed eastbound paveof the area he represents. Traffic Maintenance ment, and the westbound traffic will “It’s pretty exciting to have that in Arkansas Highway Commission move into the median. your district,” he said. “There are a lot Chairman Tom Schueck of Little • By mid 2022, westbound traffic of positives for Rock says the I-30 will move onto completed westbound our economy. “We all understand project will help pavement to allow continued construcWe’ve already increase mobility in tion in the median. had some that for the next three Central Arkansas. A Connecting Arkansas Project construction “It’s a good ARDOT Public Information Officer years or so that it will workers it’s a Danny Straessle told the Democratpurchasing be an inconvenience, project, needed project,” he Gazette that the price tag reflects the homes in our community but we also know told the Arkansas complexity of the project in the section Democrat-Gazette. of I-30 that currently handles 81,000 and renting that once the product “The pavement vehicles daily. homes and is worn out. The “You’re adding a third lane in office space is complete it will be bridges are in bad both directions,” Straessle said. “You and eating in magnificent for shape.” also are replacing and resetting the our restaurants. ARDOT grade on the existing lanes. One set of There are some our city.” says the first bridges cross the Saline River – those headaches, – Benton Mayor Tom Farmer major traffic have to be completely rebuilt. And it but we have to shift is expected all has to be done under live traffic and look at what this summer when eastbound and we are maintaining two lanes in both the end result will produce and how it westbound traffic is moved toward directions as much as possible.” will really enhance efficiency. Twenty traffic “It’s an exciting time. We do live in the outside lanes to allow cameras are a microwave society, wanting things work within the installed right now. But people need to be “It’s a good project, being within the I-30 patient, and we’ll have a great product median. When when it’s finished. The ease of moving work requires it’s a needed project. construction lane closures on corridor and traffic will be much improved.” The pavement is worn I-30 or associated will be visible While the Arkansas General frontage roads Assembly succeeded in passing Gov. out. The bridges are to the public or highways, through the Asa Hutchinson’s highway funding in bad shape.” the impacts iDriveArkansas. package in this year’s session, Kelly – Arkansas Highway com website. To would also like to see some movement will primarily Commission Chairman be restricted to view once they on a federal infrastructure package. overnight hours are live, select Tom Schueck “It’s very important to me that we between 9 p.m. the “Traffic” tab get something out of Washington,” and 6 a.m. (represented by a he said. “This was my freshman On the website Connecting Arkantraffic light icon) and click on “Traffic year as a legislator and I was on the sasProgram.com, ARDOT lists the Cameras.” Transportation Committee. My father
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 25
AGRF Executive Director Joe Quinn moderates a recent highway funding panel discussion at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission Rural Development Conference in Hot Springs. Highway Commissioners Philip Taldo and Alec Farmer were on the panel as well as Joey Dean, executive director of the Arkansas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors, and state Rep. Mike Holcomb of Pine Bluff. Panel members talked about the need for additional road and bridge funding for communities dealing with deteriorating roads. Roughly 25% of the roads in Arkansas are designated to be in failing condition. The Rural Development Conference is an annual event attracting hundreds of local community leaders from round the state. (Photo Courtesy of AEDC)
Rural roads – many of which are inadequate to handle growing levels of traffic and commerce – are a significant challenge in states like Arkansas that face limited resources. These photos show deterioration on state Highway 248 in the Ouachita Mountains outside of Waldron (Scott County). This is why the AGRF and a coalition of other business organizations are speaking out and pushing for increased funding for the Arkansas Department of Transportation. (Photos by Bill Paddack) 26 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
Contact AAPA at: firstname.lastname@example.org (501) 219-1100
More information at: www.arasphalt.com â€‚ Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 27
Brigette Williams enjoys a late breakfast at The Root Café in downtown Little Rock. (Photo by Bill Paddack)
Over the years, Brigette Williams’ career has involved considerable time behind the wheel of her car. She’s logged thousands of miles traveling the state of Arkansas, from her position as special publications publisher with Arkansas Business Publishing Group (ABPG), to her role as regional communications director with the American Red Cross, to her time as editor of AY Magazine. Now vice president of global marketing with Avram Corporation, in this Q&A the Little Rock resident talks driving habits, safety concerns and – fortunately for anyone who also traverses roads all over the state – some terrific dining discoveries. So it’s safe to say you know Arkansas roads and highways? I’ve traveled much of the state because of professional needs, including many places I probably would not have leisurely traveled. With ABPG, my travels were primarily around the greater Little Rock area traveling Interstates 630 and 30 to meet clients or for photo shoots, typically in the daytime in normal traffic. At one point, due to special projects, I 28 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
traveled quite a bit to Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers). Can I flashback to driving through the Bobby Hopper Tunnel, on what’s now Interstate 49, when it had just opened, and before the guard rail was there? The optical illusion coming out of the tunnel was driving off the highway into nowhere other than death! I’m used to the ride now, and can now calmly drive the stretch between Alma and Fayetteville, although I avoid driving there at night; my sensation of how high the mountains are is too much. And, I don’t travel Interstate 49 north of Alma if there’s any chance of freezing precipitation. Just being transparent! For anyone who has yet to travel to Northwest Arkansas, the drive is simply breathtaking, in a good way. My job also involved periodic trips to Memphis, traveling the infamous I-40 east. Not the most exciting stretch of highway, although much better than I-40 between Fort Smith and Oklahoma City, and definitely one that keeps your full attention due to the barrage of 18 wheelers. On more than one occasion, I will opt off the interstate for Highway 70 east, much more of a Zen journey, in spite of
Q&A the extra time needed with lower speed limits. Unfortunately, my travels with Red Cross usually involved responding to a natural or man-made disaster, and the drives could occur anytime of the day or night. The Albert Pike Flood, in the Ouachita National Forrest (June 2010) took me past my western travels to Hot Springs, to Pike and Montgomery counties via Highway 70, and on to Highways 8 and 27. Three years later, in response to the Y City (Scott County) flood (May 2013), I was not too far up the road from the Albert Pike Recreation Area, again traveling Highway 70 to Highway 270 to Highway 71. Even in the midst of such tragic loss of life and destruction of property with both responses, you have to acknowledge the contradictions of the spectacular natural beauty of Arkansas juxtaposed with the deadly force of said beauty from the violence of flash floods that ravaged both locations. It leaves you awe struck and humbled. What are your driving habits? And how have they changed through the years? Listen, I love a road trip. So, when I had to, and still do, need to drive professionally, nothing makes me happier, even if it’s a fast “turnaround.” No doubt, since my time with Red Cross, my preparation is probably a bit more than before. I always make certain my car is in good driving order, and I make every effort to never have less than half a tank of gas when traveling. The last thing you want is to be caught in an extended traffic delay, in the heat or cold, and the gas light is about to glow, and you can’t access a gas station. If I’m traveling to a new location, I’ve looked at direction options, and I’m “timing out” the drive, and searching for restaurants! Don’t be afraid to ditch the GPS and find locations “on your own” by actually reading the map. GPS directions are not always the quickest, even when they say they are. Keep a paper map in the car as backup. My phone is fully charged on departure, with power cord in the car, as are drinks and snacks. Again, you just never know. (Ditto when flying.) And, extra long cables. That’s a lesson learned! And always, I’m checking weather conditions from my start to finish, to avoid any crazy weather. These days, that’s more important than ever as storms seem to be more intense and unpredictable. I do that for friends, too. What roads are you on frequently? I’m guessing like most Arkansans I’m typically on Interstates 30, 40, 49 and 630. During the past four years when my daughter Julianna attended Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, I
Naaman's Championship BBQ's brisket is just one of the succulent meats on the menu of this award-winning Texarkana restaurant. (Photo by Brigette Williams)
became very familiar with Highway 371 leading into Magnolia, as well as Highway 82 to Texarkana or El Dorado. What safety concerns do you have on Arkansas roads? Can you say 18 wheelers and drivers “head down” in their phones instead of the road? I know trucks are critical to the economy, but can we be a little road friendly? It’s not just harrowing on I-40 from Little Rock to Memphis, it can be pretty crazy from Texarkana to Little Rock. I mentioned to my kids how truckers used to flash their lights when you passed to get in front of them, to let you know your distance from them was safe to move back into the right lane. Not sure when that stopped, but it’s been awhile since I’ve notice a trucker doing that to anyone. Of course, driving courtesies are sadly disappearing for most drivers. What was your highway advice to Julianna during her four years at Southern Arkansas University? My advice to Julianna was to make sure her car
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 29
Q&A was road ready, keep her phone fully powered, to be either home or back on campus before dark (the drive is extremely rural) and to call or text me when she was back on campus. I’ll bet you know who called who to confirm her arrival! Any interesting professional road trips of note? While editor of AY Magazine, I was privileged to work on the inaugural Arkansas Department of Heritage’s Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Awards. That included interviewing the finalists, which is more than a foodie like me could dream of. Talk about an incredible assignment. In one day I started the morning at 7:30 interviewing Arkansas’ only James Beard Award winner, Mr. James Jones at Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna and enjoying a pork barbecue sandwich and chips for breakfast; then drove to Helena to watch Mr. Joe St. Columbia of Pasquale’s Hot Tamale’s make his famous tamales. Yes, he fixed me a plate; then it was down to Lake Village to Ms. Rhoda Adams’ Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamale’s for her soul food.
(Photo by Brigette Williams) The welcome sign at The Root Cafe noting a possible 30-minute or more wait is additional confirmation of the truly farm-to-table goodness.
30 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
There’s nothing like driving to give you a sense of geography and place. As pumped as I was to interview these culinary legends and enjoy their food, it was equally enjoyable seeing areas of the state I had not seen before. That would include the road intersections I saw more than once, when my sense of direction and map reading skills were totally off! As a bona fide foodie, any suggestions of places worth driving to around the state to dine? Definitely. With a few exceptions, my preference is to bypass fast food and chain restaurants and eat local. So, if you’re coming to Little Rock, there are lots of good local options, but my “go to” places include The Root Cafe for breakfast with their incredible donut muffins; Bruno’s Little Italy – it’s all comforting and yummy; and Local Lime for the chips and queso, pezcado veracruz and great margaritas. In the Delta, Wilson Café’ (Mississippi County), a hidden jewel off Interstate 55 North, on Highway 61, where everything is good to eat. After a couple of delicious desserts by the talented Shari Haley, trot across the street to check out The Grange at Wilson Gardens. The grounds and garden are beautiful and very cool. Wilson is worth the two-hour drive from Little Rock to explore the fun developments there. Heading south to Texarkana, stop at Naaman’s Championship BBQ off North State Line Avenue. Yes, it’s on the Texas side of the line, but the brisket is simply amazing! And, I’ll still be heading to El Dorado for their music festivals. The Griffin Restaurant, with its cool décor and delicious and eclectic menu, is a few steps to the music venue, unless you’re enjoying artists performing at The Griffin later at night. If you’re in the great Northwest, there are lots of good options from Fayetteville to Bentonville. Instead of traveling for work these days, I’m there for a great concert at the Walmart AMP or to take in a new exhibit or interesting lecture at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The brunch at Tusk and Trotter on Bentonville’s Square with its lemon soufflé pancakes and bacon, of course, are treats to be savored. And, make a day of it at Crystal Bridges and enjoy its Eleven Restaurant. The dinner is great, and the people watching is fun. Looking forward to trying out their brunch, which looks fantastic. What are you favorite travel apps? When I’m traveling in Arkansas: Instagram, Trip Advisor, I Drive Arkansas, The Weather Channel, Red Cross Emergency and Apple Maps, plus apps for podcasts and music. Brigette Williams Twitter + Instagram @ThisIsBrigette.
AGC CEO Urges Congress To Fix Nation’s Infrastructure In an op-ed written for Fox News that was published May 22, Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, called on President Donald Trump and House Democrats to stop their partisan bickering and get to work on infrastructure. “Americans are tired of seeing our politicians bickering. And they view our broken infrastructure as a metaphor for our increasingly broken politics in Washington,” Sandherr wrote. “If the president and members of Congress can actually set aside their differences and produce an infrastructure bill that delivers results, they will not only rebuild aging and overburdened infrastructure, but begin to rebuild Americans’ confidence in our political system. “Our message is clear: the best way to ensure America’s continued growth and global competitiveness is to make the investments needed to keep our infrastructure effective and efficient.” Political Barriers Sandherr noted in the editorial that political roadblocks to infrastructure funding are costing Americans dearly. He wrote, “Our infrastructure needs are significant and severe. The World Economic Forum ranked America’s infrastructure No. 1 in the world in 2005. Today we have fallen to No. 9. Nearly half of our nation’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and driving on them cost the average driver $599 a year in extra vehicle operating and repair costs. Traffic congestion has gotten so bad that the average motorist now spends 42 hours stuck in traffic and $1,400 in wasted gasoline each year. “There are nearly 55,000 structurally deficient bridges across the U.S. It’s not just our transportation network that
is in disrepair. It’s also our water systems and our airports. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks each year and when it happens in your neighborhood you realize how inconvenient it is to be without a reliable source of clean water. Voters Understand “It’s no wonder that America’s infrastructure has received a grade of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. This is one reason that virtually the entire business community, including This section of U.S. Highway 71 south of Greenwood is showing the Associated considerable wear and tear. (Photo General Contractors by Bill Paddack) of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have made securing needed new infrastructure funding one of our top priorities. Voters also understand that our infrastructure must be improved and they continue to reward elected officials who work to fix it and punish those who do not.” The Associated General Contractors of America represents more than 27,000 firms, including over 6,500 of America’s leading general contractors.
NWA Regional Airport Executive Joins Transportation Panel Arkansas Business reports that Aaron Burkes of Bentonville has been named to the Transportation Industry Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Burkes is CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority. The St. Louis Fed created four district industry councils in 2006, each designed to provide it with important feedback regarding economic conditions within a key industry sector.
The members’ observations — along with the economic data and information developed through the Federal Reserve Board’s Beige Book and meetings of the Reserve Bank’s boards of directors — help ensure that conditions of Main Street America are represented in monetary policy deliberations in Washington, according to a news release. Each council is supported by one of four of the Reserve Bank’s offices: St. Louis (real estate), Little Rock (agribusiness), Louisville (health care) and Memphis (transportation). The councils meet twice a year. Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 31
ARDOT Awarded Grant to Improve Rail Crossings The Arkansas reduction of $1.8 million per Department of year in costs associated with Transportation has been highway-rail grade crossing awarded funding from crashes. the Consolidated Rail Fifty-two counties will Infrastructure and Safety benefit from installation Improvements (CRISI) of 133 advanced warning grant program. signs, 473 railroad pavement The CRISI grant marking symbols and 494 program assists stop lines. departments of “These funds will A rail crossing in North Little Rock. Arkansas will receive transportation by directing help repair and upgrade $685,600 to improve the signage and pavement markings at 298 available funds toward rail infrastructure that at-grade highway-railway crossings on state and U.S.routes. rural communities to safely will increase safety and connect and upgrade rural service,” U.S. Transportation America’s rail infrastructure. Secretary Elaine L. Chao said. The Federal Railroad “The CRISI grants will help make rail systems safer Administration’s (FRA) mission is to enable the safe, and more efficient for local communities throughout the reliable and efficient movement of people and goods for a country,” Federal Rail Administrator Ronald L. Batory said. strong America, now and in the future. Arkansas will receive $685,600 to improve the signage “ARDOT will utilize these funds to help repair and and pavement markings at 298 at-grade highway-railway upgrade Arkansas’ rail infrastructure,” ARDOT Director crossings on state and U.S. routes. The project is expected Scott Bennett said. “In turn, this will increase safety at to improve safety for motorists and could result in a hundreds of crossings.”
Arkansas, Texas Work On $20M Road Project
State Treasury Collects $29 Million in Interest
The Texarkana Gazette reports that state and local transportation officials say replacing the concrete pavement of a segment of North State Line Avenue in Texarkana could begin in 2023. Coordinating planning between Arkansas and Texas is the most difficult part about advancing the $20 million project, a committee made up of Texarkana, Ark., and Texarkana, Texas, elected officials heard June 11 during a quarterly meeting of the Joint Texarkana Community Committee. The Arkansas Department of Transportation has a $9.9 million expenditure planned for the project, district engineer Steve Frisbee said. The remainder of the money will come from a combination of Texas Department of Transportation and Texarkana Metropolitan Planning Organization funds. Once started, the work would take about two years. A 2.7-mile segment of the avenue south of Interstate 30 will be demolished and rebuilt.
On May 7, state Treasurer Dennis Milligan reported to the state Board of Finance that the state treasury earned $29 million in interest in the most recent quarter on investments of roughly $4 billion. That’s up from $20.2 million in the same quarter a year ago. Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s short-term highway plan enacted by the state Legislature in a special session in May 2016 relies in part on using the treasury’s interest earnings. The plan aims to raise about $50 million a year to match about $200 million in federal highway funds.
32 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
Garver Expanding, Buys Two Buildings in NLR Garver, has acquired a pair of structures and a future building site at 7700 NorthShore Place in North Little Rock. The engineering firm, which is celebrating its 100th year, plans to expand its existing headquarters in the business park, at 4701 NorthShore Drive. One new building provides expanded space for Garver’s corporate support staff, and the warehouse will be used for equipment storage. NorthShore Business Park has been home to Garver’s corporate headquarters since 2009. The headquarters is located less than a mile from the Arkansas River Trail system, which was a factor in relocating the corporate office to North Little Rock. The company’s NLR office has been a League of American Bicyclists’ gold level Bicycle Friendly Business award recipient every year since 2010. Founded in 1919, Garver is an employee-owned multi-disciplined engineering, planning, architectural and environmental services firm, headquartered in North Little Rock. It has more than 600 employees spread between 28 offices in 11 states.
25 New Officers Join Highway Police The Arkansas Highway Police, a division of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, welcomed 25 new officers on March 22. The new officers completed an 11week training course. “I know this class will have a promising future,” ARDOT Director Scott Bennett said. “They will be protecting the motorists and our infrastructure. I’m proud of their accomplishments and wish them all the best in their careers.” The Arkansas Highway Police is a nationally recognized leader in the fields of drug interdiction, motor carrier safety and hazardous materials enforcement, and training.
New Signs Stress Work Zone Safety In April, ARDOT unveiled signs to emphasize work zone safety as part of its participation in National Work Zone Awareness Week. The new road signs, which remind motorists they are approaching major work zones, feature the phrase “work with us” superimposed over a safety orange diamond-shaped sign on a blue background. Additional phrases adorning either side of the main message suggest ways motorists could “work with us,” including “move over” and “slow down.” There were 2,085 crashes in Arkansas work zones in 2017, and a total of 17 fatalities took place in Arkansas road work zones in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available. Nationally, 799 people died nationwide in work-zone crashes the same year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
r u o y k r Ma ndar! e l a C AGRF Annual Meeting is November 12 Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 33
DRIVE LIKE YOU
You probably drive through a construction zone every day, but do you realize you’re driving through someone’s workplace?
BE ALERT. Lives depend on it. ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION 10324 Interstate 30 | Little Rock, AR 72209 | www.ardot.gov | www.idrivearkansas.com
34 Good Roads Foundation | Summer 2019
“You have to work with what the voters said, and if they decline to extend that half cent then you have a $95 million plan that we just passed as supplemented by the previous, basically $50 million plan that is still in existence. So we’ve still done a great deal for roads. But the half-cent extension is obviously a critical link of the entire package. I’ll be out there supporting it, campaigning for it. With the voters understanding the need of highways, we’re optimistic that that will be extended.” – Gov. Asa Hutchinson on his $300 million highway plan, which still requires voter approval of a permanent half-cent sales tax that could raise $205 million.
(Photo Courtesy of ARDOT)
ARDOT Director Scott Bennett speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“It gives us a lot more flexibility in where the money is spent in addition to allowing us to do just that much more in improvements.”– ARDOT Director Scott Bennett on the additional money that will go to his department as a result of legislation approved in the Arkansas General Assembly.
“This is a balanced plan. There’s never been a highway plan balanced in this fashion.” – Gov. Asa Hutchin-
son on his highway funding proposal that was approved by legislators earlier this year.
“Transportation and infrastructure is on, I think, every city’s list.”
– North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith on problems and challenges cities face.
Summer 2019 | Good Roads Foundation 35
Arkansas Good Roads Foundation P.O. Box 25854 Little Rock, Arkansas 72221
PRESORT STANDARD US POSTAGE PAID Little Rock, AR Permit No. 588