Arkansas Highway Board in Jeopardy, Chairman Says

October 14, 2000

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The chairman of Arkansas' state Highway Commission says he fears trucking interests will try to do away with the panel next year.

According to Associated Press reports, Herby Branscum, in the final year of his 10-year term on the commission, told the Russellville, Ark., Kiwanis Club last week that he believes state and national trucking associations will try to negate an amendment that takes politics out of the business of building and maintaining state highways. The state’s voters passed the Mack-Blackwell Amendment in 1953, which created the independent Highway Commission and provided for 10-year appointments of its members.
In August 1999, the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Trucking Association voted to form a committee to explore business community support for repealing the amendment and returning control of highway spending to the executive and legislative branches of government.
At the time, association president Lane Kidd said, "We believe that's too much power in the hands of five people who are not accountable to the people of Arkansas." contacted representatives from the association, but they declined to comment on AP’s report.
Before the amendment, Branscum said, the highway commission changed as often as every two years when a new governor came into office. Over 40 years there were nine or 10 legislative acts which changed the size or make-up of the commission, he said, and highway commissioners came and went, resulting in fragmentation of highway building.
Branscum said the state highway system in 1953 consisted of 10,000 miles, of which 6,000 miles were paved, whereas today the system includes 16,367 miles of road, all but 14 miles of which are paved.

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