The state Highway and Transportation Department disputes Ernest Dumas’ calculations in last week’s Arkansas Times that the 356 miles of interstates that are being repaired under the 1999 bond program could have been fixed almost as quickly without the bond issue.
The 356 miles are to be completed sometime next year. In Dumas’ evaluation, the $74 million a year in state and federal taxes that are paying off the bonds would have supplied $445 million directly for interstate work to date and another $148 million the next two years. Still another $375 million of state and federal funds besides the bond proceeds have actually helped repair the mileage, and Dumas said that if those monies had been used as well on a pay-as-you-go program it would come close to matching the construction pace with the bonds. And the state would not still owe $525 million to bond investors as it does now.
Randy Ort, public affairs officer of the department, said $48 million of the other highway money was interest on idle bond proceeds and the premiums paid by the successful bidders on the bonds and would not have been available for a pay-as-you-go program. That would extend the pay-as-you-go program a number of months beyond Dumas’s timetable. Construction inflation also would slow the pace of building under the pay-as-you-go approach, he said.