On Tuesday, November 8, a special election will be held for an important job-creation project that will decide the future of Arkansas's interstates. If approved by voters, the 2011 Interstate Rehabilitation Program will authorize our Highway Commission to re-issue $575 million in bonds. These bonds will allow us to continue the work of modernizing our interstates. The re-construction work will create jobs, and better roads will improve economic development. And most important, these benefits will come without raising taxes. While the election is set for the 8th, early voting on the bond election begins November 1.
The upkeep of our interstate system is an ongoing expense, and bond proposals like this one have proven to be an effective and cost-efficient solution. In 1999, Arkansas voters overwhelmingly approved a virtually identical measure that led to the re-construction of 356 miles of interstate highways. However, there are still more than 300 miles of interstate in Arkansas that need immediate improvement.
Continuing the bond program will save the State money in two primary ways. First, the cost of road construction continues to rise, so the sooner we get to work modernizing these roads, the more we can avoid inflation. Second, the longer we wait, the further our roads will deteriorate. Roads that become increasingly worse become increasingly expensive to repair.
Approval of this measure will create about 28,000 construction jobs. In the long-term, the economic potential is even greater. Part of Arkansas's attractiveness to businesses is the lower shipping costs accommodated by our central geography. But our location is a selling point only if we have the infrastructure required to support companies and their transportation networks. As one of our state's most important economic-development and job-creation tools, modern highways will allow us to effectively compete with our surrounding states.
For all of these reasons, it is not surprising that this proposal has widespread bipartisan backing. The money will fund maintenance projects statewide, so everyone will benefit. And there's nothing to be gained by voting this measure down. While taxes will not go up if the bond is approved, they also won't go down if voters reject the proposal.
It wasn't that long ago that Arkansas had a negative reputation for the condition of our interstates. That reputation has improved significantly over the past decade, and we have the chance to continue that progress. Voting yes on November 8 will help us finish the job of rehabilitating our interstates, put thousands of Arkansans to work and save our state money in the long run. Early voting begins on Tuesday, November 1, and polls will remain open through Election Day. I hope that you will join me in voting "yes" on this critical issue and take advantage of the opportunity to have better roads in Arkansas without raising taxes.