Let's Pave the Way (Opinion)

If you don’t think traffic congestion and inadequate, deteriorating roads are a major problem in Northwest Arkansas, this probably isn’t the opinion for you.

If, on the other hand, you’ve ever screamed bad words or punched your steering wheel in frustration while simply trying to navigate your way to or from work, home, or practically anywhere else, for that matter, you might want to give serious consideration to voting for Issue No. 1. It will appear on the statewide general election ballot Nov. 6, and is your best bet for roadway relief.

Yes, we know voting in favor of Issue No. 1 means supporting a new tax, something that causes us more than a little discomfort. But we’ve also been around long enough to know “No pain, no gain” is true in a lot of cases.

Issue No. 1, if passed, will temporarily raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 6.5 percent to finance a $1.3 billion bond issue. The money will finance road construction projects for more and better roads across the state, and support about 40,000 construction jobs.

The tax rate will stay at 6.5 percent for 10 years, or as long as it takes to pay off the bond. It’s also important to note the temporary tax will not be applied to groceries, medicine or gas.

The issue was referred to voters by the Legislature, and there isn’t any organized opposition. Past and current legislators from both sides have endorsed the initiative, as have numerous chambers of commerce, the Arkansas Municipal League and the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

For our little corner of the world, if Issue No. 1 is approved, three major projects will receive funding. For starters, Interstate 540 would expand from four to six lanes from Fayetteville to Bentonville.

That alone would be enough for our support, but two lanes of the Bella Vista Bypass will be built — allowing drivers to avoid congested U.S. 71 — and the U.S. 412 Bypass of Springdale will be started.

In addition to the job support and creation, and infrastructure improvement, Issue No. 1 would benefit every town, city and county in the state, providing more than $700 million in state turnback revenue — $350 million for counties and $350 million for cities — to be used for transportation-related projects.

Big takeaway: Rolling along with what we have is simply not acceptable. We have to have more and better roads in Northwest Arkansas.

Vote “Yes” on Issue No. 1.