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story.lead_photo.caption The Interstate 30 bridge over the Arkansas River is shown in this 2014 file photo. - Photo by STATON BREIDENTHAL / STATON BREIDENTHAL

Money from a statewide half-percent sales tax programmed for the $631.7 million project to improve the Interstate 30 corridor through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock is prohibited under the language of the constitutional amendment levying the tax voters approved six years ago, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

If the lawsuit is successful, the long-planned project to improve the 6.7-mile corridor, which includes replacing the I-30 bridge over the Arkansas River, likely wouldn't be built as it is designed now. Nearly two-thirds of the funding for the project comes from the half-percent sales tax, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

The lawsuit was filed by Richard Mason of El Dorado and four other Arkansas residents. Mason is a professional geologist, the former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, and a past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.

The suit argues that the "obvious, common, plain and unambiguous language of Amendment 91" limits spending proceeds from the temporary tax increase to "state highways of four lanes or to enlarge state highways from two to four lanes." The I-30 project, known as 30 Crossing, will widen the section to 10 lanes from four lanes.

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that spending sales tax proceeds on the project is unconstitutional and requires the defendants to be "restrained and enjoined from continuing to approve or expend funds" on projects other than four-lane highways or enlarging highways of less than four lanes to four lanes.

NW News on 11/08/2018

Print Headline: Lawsuit contends sales tax money can't be used for $631.7M I-30 project

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