AHTD Answers to Legislative Committee - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

AHTD Answers to Legislative Committee

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Arkansans asked again and again last week why Missouri and Tennessee roads were clear while Arkansans were stuck on I-40 and I-55 for hours. Tuesday, a legislative committee posed that question to the Arkansas Department of Highways and Transportation.

"Obviously there is a vast difference between what Missouri is able to do with winter weather and what Arkansas is able to do," said Rep. Andy Davis.

That difference, according to AHTD Director Scott Bennett is in part due to a disparity in money. Missouri's transportation budget is three times Arkansas's. Tennessee's is double, even with fewer highway miles in the state.

Winter weather cost the state $18 million this year, compared to $5 million last year.

"We've got six of these belly trucks state wide they've (Missouri's) got eight on this 30 mile stretch," testified Bennett.

Each Missouri plow covered 15 miles while Arkansas plows covered 52 miles. Missouri plows doubled back every half hour and Arkansas's every two hours. The highway department had been proud of its lean operating budget, but now lawmakers wonder if it's too lean.

"Maybe some of the efficiencies we've created have resulted in some of the inefficiencies in our winter weather response," said Rep. Davis.

Just last week, $1 million request of surplus money for new trucks was shot down by members of the Joint Budget Committee. Bennett testified that for Arkansas to be like Missouri in snow response, it would cost $60 million.

"What would 22 get us?" asked Senator Linda Chesterfield. "Well, last week I had trouble getting $1 million. Twenty-two would make a huge difference," responded Bennett.

It's a discussion that will have to be had next budget year, but some wonder if once again the highway department would be left out in the cold.

"Obviously, we're talking about a storm that was recent, so it's fresh in our minds. But, when we get into session in 2015 are we going to remember all these things?" asked Rep. Davis.