- Associated Press - Thursday, January 17, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Department of Transportation has begun seeking bids on 31 construction projects that officials hope will improve connectivity across the state, including a second attempt to widen a highway in northeast Arkansas.

Atlas Asphalt Inc. and Arkansas-based Delta Asphalt bid $58.5 million for the project to widen U.S. 412 to four lanes in Lawrence and Greene counties, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The 14.5-mile (23-kilometer) project would link Walnut Ridge and Paragould.

“It’s an important corridor in the state,” said Alec Farmer, a member of the Arkansas Highway Commission. “Unfortunately, we have several of those and, once again, limited resources to address them all.”

The department rejected a $62 million bid for the project in September because it was too high.

The agency has adjusted the bid specifications to reduce the risk for contractors, who now bid the number of work days instead of calendar days, said Jared Wiley, head of the department’s program management division.

The project is a part of the state’s $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program, which funds regionally significant projects. The program is mainly funded by a half-percent statewide sales tax increase that was enacted in 2012 and will run for 10 years.

Another project under the program focuses on U.S. 65 in Van Buren County. Bobby Kennedy Construction submitted a nearly $34 million bid for the project that would connect Clinton and Harrison with a four-lane highway.

The department also received a $13.5 million bid from Crouse Construction for a project to replace a bridge over the Buffalo River in Pruitt. Officials said Pruitt is a popular location on the river, which is part of a national park. The project would also widen the highway near the bridge.

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