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Study shows tolls as option to add more Arkansas I-40 lanes

Highway officials in Arkansas say 40,000 vehicles travel the stretch of I-40 between North Little Rock, Arkansas, and West Memphis, Arkansas,each day and that 20,000 of those are tractor trailer rigs.

The Associated Press


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A study ordered by the Arkansas Highway Commission found that tolls could pay to build an extra lane in each direction on Interstate 40 between North Little Rock and West Memphis.

The often-congested 110-mile section currently has two lanes in both directions. An Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spokesman recently said on a radio program that 40,000 vehicles travel the stretch each day and that 20,000 of those are tractor trailer rigs.

Federal law bans charging tolls on interstates, except under limited circumstances. The federal transportation department allows three states to try the concept of making interstate improvements and recovering the costs through tolls. Arkansas isn't one of them.

But the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports ( ) the other states — Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina — have been slow to move on their pilot projects, raising the chance Arkansas could win one of their slots if one withdraws.

"We're ready if one of the other states drops out or the federal government (eases its) restrictions," AHTD spokesman Randy Ort said after the meeting in Little Rock where the study was released Wednesday.

States can add a lane and charge a toll to use just that lane, but the study determined that would not work on I-40.

Drivers on that stretch are often slowed down by construction and crashes. The study found the lowest toll cost that would work for cars is 9 cents a mile, or $9.90 for a one-way trip down the entire 110-mile stretch.

"I would pay that in a heartbeat," said commission member Tom Schueck of Little Rock.

Trucks might pay 27 cents per mile. The study estimated it would cost $700 million to widen I-40 but the tolls would leave plenty of revenue for routine maintenance and possibly other projects.

The study notes that tolls will likely face opposition from the trucking industry, politicians and the general public.

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