The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has scrapped bidding on three road projects set for Jan. 27 because of uncertainty about the flow of federal reimbursements.
The projects are widening of Highway 1 in Lee and Phillips counties paving a gravel Highway 220 in Crawford County and replace a bridge on County Road 72 in Franklin County.
Congressional action is needed. Wonder how loose the new Republican majority will be with highway dollars?
A news release explains:
AHTD Director Scott Bennett explained the situation. “All our bills are paid with State funds, then we seek reimbursement from the Federal Highway Trust Fund for the Federal portion of those payments. So we are constantly monitoring our projections and cash flow of State funds. If our Federal reimbursements are reduced or delayed, we must account for that on the front end to ensure we have adequate State funds to fulfill all our commitments.
“Based on our current projections, if we execute all contracts that are scheduled for the January letting, the Department may not have adequate State funds available to pay our bills during the period of reduced or delayed Federal reimbursements next summer,” Bennett stated.
An evaluation of scheduled Federally-funded projects will occur prior to each Department letting until Congress acts to correct the funding shortfall. Additional scheduled letting dates in 2015, after January, are March 10th, April 21st, June 9th, July 21st, September 1st, October 13th, and December 1st. The Department delayed 15 projects with an estimated cost of nearly $70 million in 2014 because of the same Highway Trust Fund issue.
“Same song, second verse,” Bennett noted, referring to this round of cutbacks. “The Federal government is putting the States in a real bind regarding the implementation of much-needed highway projects. We are hoping that a long-term revenue solution for the Federal Highway Trust Fund can be found so we in Arkansas and across the country can continue to award planned construction projects and adequately invest in our nation’s infrastructure,” Bennett added.