Don Weaver on Paving Over Potholes in Federal Highway Funding


Don Weaver on Paving Over Potholes in Federal Highway Funding
Don Weaver

Don Weaver graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He’s the chairman of the board of The Road Information Program and has served on the Associated General Contractors of America national board since 2001. Weaver-Bailey is based in El Paso (White County).

Weaver-Bailey Contractors, the largest main line concrete paver in Arkansas, was founded in 1960.

What attracted you to the construction industry?

The first was family. My grandfather along with his brothers and his brothers-in-law traveled the country in the ‘30s and ‘40s and ‘50s working on large projects. They were concrete workers and rock layers. Some of their beautiful rock work can still be seen all around Lakewood in North Little Rock and at Winrock Farms on Petit Jean Mountain. In 1960, Weaver-Bailey was started by two of my uncles, Wayne Weaver and Joe Bailey. They were joined later by Fred Weaver and my dad, Charles Weaver. The other is being able to be a part of a team of people who build things that last more than a lifetime.

What is one of your favorite projects and why?

It always seems to be the last project. The Big Rock Interchange, which was recently completed in west Little Rock, was fulfilling in that it will serve Arkansas for years to come. Building the new Conway airport was special for me. It is my hometown, and we used a local team to complete the project.

The issue of future funding for highway construction continues to loom large at the national level. What’s the latest?

Getting new funding on the federal level is difficult. The funding is generated by a user fee, which is in decline. Washington is in a tough environment to have to try to raise new monies. If the current federal user fee on gas of 18.3 cents per gallon were adjusted for inflation from 1993 — the last time it was raised — to today, it would be 30.22 cents. If you drive 20,000 miles a year and get 20 miles per gallon, that is an increase of $119.20 a year. Most people pay that for a cable bill every month. One pothole hit can cost a motorist more than that.

What is on your agenda as chairman of The Road Information Program?

TRIP is a great organization, made up of associations, manufacturers, suppliers, insurance companies, engineers, educators and contractors. We use information provided by the Federal Highway Administration and state highway departments to produce reports on road and bridge conditions. This has been a busy year with 16 state reports, including Arkansas, and two national reports. These are important to states trying to inform the public of the reasons new revenue is needed for our roads. Twenty states and Puerto Rico have increased funding since 2013. The public will vote to increase funding on a local level when they know how the funds will be spent. Hopefully, this will spill over to D.C.

How has the family business dynamic changed over the years in your line of work?

When I started in 1981, every town in Arkansas of any size had a family-owned road contractor. This is not true today for many different reasons. Those of us that are left have had to specialize on the items we self-perform. I think it is — and will be — hard for anyone to start from nothing and build a new company in this business in our current environment.