Arkansas Transportation

Lorie Tudor
Department of Transportation

Lorie Tudor, a 36-year veteran with the Arkansas Department of Transportation who began at the agency as a clerk typist, was named Thursday the director of the state’s high-profile department. She is the agency’s first female director.

The Arkansas Highway Commission has named Tudor as director following a special meeting held Thursday. She succeeds Scott Bennett, who announced his retirement effective March 20, 2020.

Scott Bennett
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett is retiring effective March 20, 2020. Bennett informed the Highway Commission of his decision in a letter dated Feb. 19.

"I’ve had a great career at ARDOT, and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many success stories," Bennett said, "but it’s time for me to step down. I’ve always been told ‘you’ll know when it’s time,’ and I believe that time has come for me."

Commission Chairman Tom Schueck of Little Rock praised Bennett for his leadership. "It’s been a privilege to work with Scott," Schueck said.

Issue 1 Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The message that generates the most support for a proposed half-cent sales tax extension is that it would affect highways in all four corners of the state, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday.

Speaking to the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation Annual Meeting, Hutchinson said that 68.6% of respondents in an Oct. 9th poll of 800 likely state voters said that argument would make them more likely to support the tax extension. That polled at the highest percentage among the messages presented to respondents.

Issue 1 Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

With less than a year until the November 2020 election, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and stakeholders for better roads officially launched their campaign for Issue 1, a permanent extension of a half-cent sales tax that is set to expire in 2022.

On Friday, Hutchinson kicked off the “Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1” campaign. Issue 1, referred by legislators to voters would extend the half-cent sales tax for roads in perpetuity when it expires in 2022.

gas station
AAA

Starting Tuesday, taxes on gas and diesel fuel are going up and owners of electric and hybrid vehicles will be paying more to register their vehicles. Those increases are the result of legislation signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The tax on gasoline is going up 3 cents a gallon, while the tax on diesel will rise 6 cents a gallon. In addition to those new taxes, owners of hybrid and electric vehicles will be paying $100 or $200 dollars more, respectively, to register their vehicles each year.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Rock Region Metro is field testing a new service in southwest Little Rock. Metro Connect is what those in the transit industry call microtransit: an on-demand, short-range, ride-sharing service. Users can, via app or phone, arrange to be picked up in small vans and dropped off anywhere in a designated service area for the same price they would pay to ride a full-size bus.

Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Lance Fritz told a luncheon crowd in Little Rock on Monday that open trade is central to the continued growth of the Arkansas and U.S. economy, citing risks that President Donald Trump is taking with ongoing trade wars between China and U.S. neighbors in Canada and Mexico.

Mosaic Templars
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which tells the story of African-Americans in Arkansas, is striving to raise $3 million to renovate its educational exhibit space. The museum opened in 2008 in a spot that was once the heart of Little Rock’s black community.

During a ceremony Monday with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the state Capitol, backers of the fundraising campaign accepted the museum’s largest-ever corporate donation. Union Pacific Railroad, which employed about 2,600 people in the state as of last year, gave $300,000 toward the campaign.

A rendering of an expanded I-30 corridor in downtown Little Rock. 30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

Several neighborhood groups and residents are asking a federal judge to halt a $1 billion plan to widen a highway connecting downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The lawsuit filed Monday challenges the "30 Crossing" plan to widen and reconstruct roughly 7 miles of Interstates 30 and 40 in the cities' downtowns.

Asa Hutchinson signing bills
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

All bills passed during the 2019 session of the Arkansas General Assembly have been signed into law. Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not veto any bills this year. He signed the final pieces of legislation Wednesday afternoon alongside several lawmakers.

A formal adjournment is set to take place next Wednesday when lawmakers return to the Capitol for Sine Die. In some previous years, that has been when senators and representatives have had to consider whether to attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes, something that won’t be necessary this time.

Rock Region Metro
Rock Region Metro

Central Arkansas public transit could benefit from national bipartisan support for infrastructure spending. Charles Frazier, the CEO of Rock Region Metro, traveled to Washington D.C. as part of a national delegation of transit officials requesting federal funding.

"There are backlogged 'state of good repair' projects – upwards of $90 billion – and without the appropriate support from the federal government that work gets kicked down the road," Frazier said.

Frazier was one of several members of the American Public Transportation Association to present data from a report generated by the APTA to members of the U.S. Congress. In addition to repair projects, federal dollars could also help pay for new projects, like an expansion of the transit hub in Arkansas's capital city.

Asa Hutchinson highway funding bill
Governor's Office

Arkansas motorists will pay 3 cents more for a gallon of gasoline and 6 cents more for diesel after Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed part of what he called “the largest highway plan in the state’s history” into law Tuesday.

Act 416 by Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, will raise $95 million annually for the state’s highway system. Of that, $58 million will come from the fuel tax increases. Those taxes then can increase by a maximum of one-tenth of one cent per year.

The bill will increase gasoline taxes to 24.5 cents per gallon and diesel taxes to 28.5 cents per gallon.

Highways traffic Big Rock Interchange interstate
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Senate on Thursday approved the final piece of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $300 million highway funding package, albeit with a procedural twist that left some lawmakers shaking their heads during the chamber’s two-and-half hour session. Senators also passed a resolution in honor of the late Matt DeCample, a former spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe.

Rock Region Metro
Rock Region Metro

A new program has been launched to provide free transportation to homeless people in Pulaski County. Rock Region Metro partnered with several non-profit organizations to start the program last month. Becca Green, director of public engagement, says they’ve established a system to determine who is eligible for free bus passes. 

"The case worker will enter information on the clients in his or her care and determine using the system criteria agreed upon within the collusion if the person is eligible for a free ride," Green said.  

Arkansas House
ArkansasHouse.org

The twin pillars of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s highway plan – a fuel tax increase and an extension of the half-cent sales tax – moved another step closer to passage Monday with both winning support in the House of Representatives.

Together, the two bills would provide about $300 million annually to state highways and another $110 million to cities and counties.

After the votes, Gov. Asa Hutchinson stepped into the Capitol pressroom, flashed a thumbs up, and said, “We got a highway bill through. It’s been a good day.”

Terry Rice
www.arkleg.state.ar.us

The Arkansas Senate has approved a plan to raise fuel taxes and tap into expected casino revenue to increase funding for the state's highways.

The Senate voted 27-8 Thursday for a key part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $300 million highway funding plan. It now heads to the House.

Terry Rice
Arkansas Legislature

An Arkansas Senate panel has endorsed a proposal to raise gas taxes and tap into expected casino revenue to increase funding for the state's highways.

The Senate Revenue and Tax Committee on Wednesday approved the first part of a $300 million highway funding plan that Gov. Asa Hutchinson and legislative leaders unveiled last week. The measure is expected to go before the full Senate for a vote on Thursday.

A rendering of an expanded I-30 corridor in downtown Little Rock. 30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

A joint-venture has been approved to design and build the expansion of Interstate 30 through the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock. Kiewit-Massman Constructors was one of six entities that responded with proposals to widen the nearly seven-mile stretch from six to 10 lanes.

But the cost is now much higher than the $325 million projected in 2013. Kiewit-Massman says it can do part of the project, which is centered around the Arkansas River Bridge, for $535 million. Work needed for areas further north and south would likely push the project to the $1 billion range.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola unveils the city's first "digital citizen engagement" kiosk. It provides wifi service and allows people to learn about area events and businesses, get directions, and take selfies.
David Monteith / KUAR News

Little Rock has decided to put a potential bike-sharing program on hold in favor of a different mode of transportation. The city released a request for proposals in November for the bike share program. The proposal said Phase One, which would have launched the beginning of a six-year program, would provide a minimum of 200 bikes in the downtown/River Market area for people to use.

Maumelle Interchange
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

After decades of discussion, construction of a new Interstate 40 interchange is getting underway in Maumelle. The nearly $15 million project will allow another access point in and out of the fast-growing city.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined members of the Arkansas Highway Commission, state legislators and city leaders for Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony. Work is expected to take 10 months to complete.

Bus Accident
KATV-Channel 7

A former member of a Tennessee youth football program that lost a player in a pre-dawn bus crash in Arkansas says the program can keep children from being lured into a world of drugs and crime.

One child from the Orange Mound Youth Association in Memphis was killed Monday when a charter bus veered off Interstate 30 near Benton, Arkansas, and tumbled down an embankment. At least 45 other people were hurt in the crash.

Union Pacific
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Union Pacific is cutting 60 jobs in central Arkansas as part of a second round of layoffs nationwide. A spokeswoman said Monday the local positions come from the railroad’s locomotive servicing and car repair shops in North Little Rock.

The company is eliminating 675 positions nationwide during the fourth quarter of the year. A further reduction in the size of its workforce is planned, company officials say, as Union Pacific works to improve profitability.

The railroad serves 23 states in the western two-thirds of the U.S. and employs about 2,500 people in Arkansas.

30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

Public comments are being compiled on a $630 million proposal to widen Interstate 30 from six to 10 lanes in central Arkansas. Friday was the deadline for people to give their thoughts on an environmental assessment, with the proposal to now be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.

Hughes Street Interstate 630 I-630 expansion
Arkansas Department of Transportation

U.S. District Judge James Moody said he will likely issue a decision Tuesday on whether to halt an expansion project just getting underway on Interstate 630 in Little Rock. On Monday he heard a full day of oral arguments and testimony that continued into the evening. 

Hughes Street Interstate 630 I-630 expansion
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As a construction zone is being set up to widen a 2.2-mile stretch of Interstate 630 in Little Rock, a federal lawsuit aims to bring the $87.4 million project to a halt. One lane is to be added in each direction between Baptist Health Medical Center and University Avenue.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas argues that a proper environmental assessment was not conducted. Attorney Richard Mays is asking for a temporary restraining order which would stop construction until the lawsuit can be heard in court.

Interstate 630 highway construction
David Monteith / KUAR News

The speed limit is being reduced and concrete barriers are going up along a 2.2-mile stretch of Interstate 630 in Little Rock. Unless the weather causes delays, lanes will be closed beginning Monday night to prepare for the placement of concrete safety barriers along the stretch of the interstate between University Avenue and John Barrow Road.

30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

A final public meeting on plans to expand a 6.7 mile stretch of Interstate 30 in Little Rock took place Thursday evening in North Little Rock. The Arkansas Department of Transportation presented an environmental assessment on the project, which would run through the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The environmental assessment is a nearly 4,000 page report on the proposal to expand I-30 to 10 lanes. Department spokesman Danny Straessle says the $630 million project is necessary to fix unsafe ramps downtown.

A rendering of an expanded I-30 corridor in downtown Little Rock. 30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

The Arkansas Department of Transportation is holding a final public hearing Thursday on a proposed expansion of a 6.7 mile stretch of Interstate 30 through the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The meeting will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel at 2 Riverfront Place in North Little Rock. The department, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is seeking public input at the hearing.

Rock Region Metro transit buses CAT central arkansas transit
David Monteith / KUAR News

A new executive director is getting settled in at Rock Region Metro. Charles Frazier says he hopes to expand the role of public transit in central Arkansas. Frazier comes to Little Rock from Palm Beach County, Florida where he was an assistant director at Palm Tran, the transit agency there. 

Scott Bennett Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Director
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A draft of President Trump’s infrastructure plan leaked two-and-a-half weeks ago is “very much a rich get richer plan” that wouldn’t result in large amounts of money for Arkansas, Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett said Thursday.

Bennett made his comments to the Arkansas Legislative Council’s Highway Commission Review and Advisory Subcommittee.

The memo describing the plan’s framework was leaked Jan. 22, but the White House has said it will unveil its full $1.5 trillion plan Feb. 12.

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