Arkansas, like the other forty nine states, faces a transportation crisis. Too little funding is directed toward maintaining and repairing our aging transport infrastructure. Too many bridges and overpasses are old and potentially compromised, yet federal monies for highways are inadequate. The Little Rock-Conway and Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Areas face daily traffic snarls that increase families’ fuel usage and toxic automobile emissions, and lead to economic inefficiencies in the form of wasted time. Monies for public transit and infrastructure for healthy commuting (bicycling and walking) are woefully inadequate. In short, our current transportation infrastructure ultimately is not sustainable.
The Green Party of Arkansas advocates an increase in diesel fuel tax as a first step. More than one third of all truck traffic on Interstate 40, which connects California and the Eastern Seaboard, is concentrated in the Arkansas portion, from Fort Smith to West Memphis. This heavy concentration of truck traffic in the state justifies increased diesel fuel taxes earmarked for highway repairs and construction. A modest increase in the vehicle gasoline tax would provide many of the funds from the State of Arkansas needed to finance alternative transit, including expanded bus systems in several metropolitan areas of the state, bicycle trails, and sidewalk expansion. Municipalities and counties that increase taxes dedicated to alternative transit would receive additional funds from the State of Arkansas.
The Green Party of Arkansas supports light rail or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to link Conway, Benton/Bryant, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, and Cabot with Little Rock and the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport, as proposed by Metroplan. The Little Rock area is among the nation’s most extensively sprawled on a per capita basis. We also support a similarly rigorous light rail or BRT system to link the multiple and sprawling cities of the Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Area. Such intra-regional rapid transit would be a key ingredient of Transport Oriented Development (TOD) in those two metropolitan areas, which is compatible with the principle of sustainability that lies at the heart of policy of the Green Party of Arkansas.
Because of the direct relationship between public health and transportation, the Green Party of Arkansas supports a dramatic increase in funding for Safe Routes to School, a federal program managed by the states. The program funds education campaigns to promote walking and bicycling to schools, and infrastructure such as sidewalks and bicycle trails to enable healthier transport options than making short trips in automobiles, and to reduce traffic jams during rush hours.