Study Shows Tolls Could Pay To Widen I-40 In East Arkansas

A study ordered by the Arkansas Highway Commission revealed that tolls could pay for the widening of Interstate 40 between North Little Rock and West Memphis.

Adding an extra lane in each direction would ease congestion on the 110-mile, two-lane highway, which is often backed up with construction and crashes, according to the study.

According to KATV in Arkansas, 40,000 vehicles travel the stretch each day, and 50 percent of those vehicles are trucks.

For most states, federal law bans charging tolls on existing interstates, except under limited circumstances. Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina are the only three states the federal department gives permission to make interstate improvements then recover the cost through tolls.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the three other states are slow to cash in on the chance, which means Arkansas could soon win a slot and have the opportunity to widen I-40 if one withdraws.

“We’re ready if one of the other states drops out or the federal government (eases its) restrictions,” Arkansas Highway Transportation Department spokesman Randy Ort said after the meeting in Little Rock, where the study was released Wednesday.

The study also found that the toll would have to charge a minimum of 9 cents per mile for cars, or 27 cents per mile for trucks traveling down the 110-mile stretch of highway, and it would require a toll from all three lanes of traffic.

That’s $9.90 for cars or $29.70 for trucks to pay each one-way trip for a widening project that’s estimated to cost $700 million, which would leave extra funds for routine maintenance and other projects.

KA-TV recently released the following statement on behalf of the Arkansas Trucking Association (ATA) in a news story covering the toll road study:

The Arkansas Trucking Association (ATA) is opposed to the tolling of existing interstate capacity. Federal law currently bans tolling on existing interstates and our industry would be strongly opposed to a change of that policy. However, the ATA does not blankly oppose tolling. In some situations, when new capacity can be generated, providing options for motorists and commercial traffic to pay a premium for access, the industry could support the use of tolls.”

Sources
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 
KA-TV