LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Highway 112 in Washington County, Arkansas is now one of five Arkansas Department of Transportation projects funded through Amendment 91 thanks to a legal challenge.
The concerning area of Highway 112 is between Truckers Drive and Howard Nickell Road, according to a news release. No Washington County tax dollars raised through the amendment approved by Arkansas voters in 2012 had originally been allocated for Washington County projects, the release said. The $15,650,000 that will now almost entirely fund the project through Amendment 91 had been allocated to the Interstate 30 Crossing project in Little Rock.
Plaintiff attorneys Joe Denton and Justin Zachary filed suit on behalf of a small group of taxpayers. They claimed that it was not permissible to use those dollars to fund the Little Rock project under the wording of the amendment. The Arkansas Supreme Court then agreed.
“Our challenge was about making sure those funds generated by Amendment 91 went to where Arkansas taxpayers intended when they approved the amendment,” said attorney Joe Denton of Denton & Zachary. “In this case, that means funding highway improvements across the state where they’re sorely needed rather than consolidating the funds paid by citizens from across the state for a few large-scale projects in Little Rock that were clearly not permissible under the wording of the approved amendment.”
Washington County tax dollars raised as part of the amendment will now help fund local projects instead of seeing that money sent elsewhere in the state. In all, $121-million in Amendment 91 funds originally allocated to the ineligible I-30 Crossing project and an I-630 project in west Little Rock were re-allocated to other projects across Arkansas following the court’s ruling.
The release also notes in addition to the Washington County project, four other projects funded in full or partially through re-allocated Amendment 91 funds are scheduled for 2022, including the Pope County I-40 project, Pulaski County Highway 10 project, Columbia County Highway 82 project and Drew & Desha Counties I-69 project.
Once approved by voters in 2012, Amendment 91 instituted a 0.5% sales tax over 10 years that would help pay for the $1.8-billion Connecting Arkansas Program. The program was aimed at improving over 200 miles of state highways but was limited to projects no wider than four lanes. The I-30 Crossing and I-630 projects in Little Rock involved six-lane roads which would be widened to 10 lanes in the case of I-30 and eight lanes in the case of I-630.