A constitutional amendment to extend a $575 million Garvee road bond program won by a sizeable majority in all 75 Arkansas counties in last week’s special election.
The proposal’s best approval rate was 92.6% in Ouachita County, but it passed with at least 60% everywhere else.
The final but unofficial tally was 75,112 to 18,067. Voter turnout was about 6%, the secretary of state’s office said.
The vote renews a Garvee bond program approved by voters in 1999 that will expire in 2014 when the final bonds mature.
Turnout in the successful 1999 vote was 11% of voters, with an approval rate of 80%. Voters in 2005 rejected a proposal to extend the program with a $575 million cap on outstanding bonds.
The additional $575 million of 12-year bonds must be issued by the end of 2015. The bonds are supported by federal highway grants and a dedicated diesel fuel tax of 4 cents per gallon.
Proceeds from the bonds are earmarked for repairs and modernization efforts on an estimated 450 miles of interstate highway in Arkansas.
The first bonds are expected to be sold in late 2012 or early 2013, with construction beginning soon after.
The Arkansas Highway Commission in October accepted a staff recommendation to hire Stephens Inc. as financial advisor if the program was renewed. An official agreement is expected to be approved at the commission’s December meeting.
The original $575 million authorization from 1999 was exhausted, with a $215 million sale in 2002 following sales of $175 million 2000 and $185 million in 2001.