Arkansas Editorial: It tolls for no one–State finds toll road for I-49 section not worth it

Yet another tolling study has offered up disappointing results.

This time, the study looked at tolls as a means to build, maintain and operate a 13.7-mile section of Interstate 49 south from Alma to Barling in western Arkansas.

It is a short stretch of road but a costly one, made more expensive because it would include a new bridge over the Arkansas River.

Project cost is estimated at $776 million. Building it as a four-lane toll road would bump the cost to $787 million. Another $118 million would be needed to operate and maintain it as a toll road. And another $141 million should be set aside for major maintenance and reconstruction, according to the estimates.

Contrast that with the potential revenue from tolls, calculated at an optimum rate of 15 cents per mile, or $2 for the length of this section. Tolls would generate an estimated $243 million annually, or nothing close to enough to make tolling worthwhile.

The numbers just don’t work for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, which doesn’t have the money in hand or on the horizon to build the road.