ARDOT and Local Public Agencies Working Together for Arkansans

By Madison Folsom
AAC Law Clerk

Arkansans have benefited much over the years through the programs administered by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT). It’s important for our state, city, and county officials to learn about these programs and make full use of them.

Our mutual constituents travel upon a system of state highways, county roads and city streets. Nothing is more vital to the transportation of goods, livestock, timber, poultry, and commerce than a good system of roads. This article attempts to capture the progress made in Arkansas through four important programs administered by ARDOT: the State Aid Program; the Bridge Inspection Program; the Federal Aid Bridge Replacement Program; and the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), formerly the technology transfer program (T-square).

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and ARDOT work together to support state and local agencies in providing appropriate funding, resources, and training necessary to improve road and work conditions and ensure we reach our destinations safely. To carry out these goals, Title 23 of the U.S. Code authorized ARDOT to fund programs like the State Aid Division, Local Bridge Program, and LTAP, to provide state and local governments with the funding, skill, and expertise for improvements and replacements of bridges and roads throughout Arkansas.

State Aid Program & State Aid Funding

Fifty years ago, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 445 of 1973 (effective July 1, 1973) creating ARDOT’s State Aid Program to disburse funds to counties to construct, reconstruct, improve, widen, straighten, surface, resurface, or replace deficient structures on the State Aid Road System.

Cities were later included under the law set forth in Acts 982 of 1975 and Act 1032 of 2011, with the funding for the State Aid Program for cities enacted in Amendment 91 and continued under Amendment 101 of the Arkansas Constitution.

The State Aid Program is funded by the 1-cent per gallon fuel tax on gasoline, diesel, and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) authorized by Ark. Code Ann. § 27-72-305(a). The amount collected is then distributed to the various counties based on three factors: (1) 50 percent is divided equally, (2) 25 percent divided in the proportion that the area of the county is to the area of the state, and (3) 25 percent divided in the proportion that the rural population per the most recent decennial federal census. Before the fuel tax was added, the amount of State Aid funding was capped at $13 million and increased by $2 million increments until the cap was removed July 1, 2003. For State Fiscal Year 2023 $21,6. million was apportioned to the State Aid County Road Fund; and $21.6 million was apportioned to the State Aid City Street Fund.

The mission of the State Aid Division is to provide quality administrative and engineering assistance to local agencies and to provide safe, efficient designs for local roads and bridge improvements or replacements while effectively utilizing federal, state, and local funds. Ultimately, the State Aid Division coordinates county road project activity between ARDOT and county government as selected by the county judge.

Act 445 defines “State Aid Roads” to mean that classification of county roads comprising the major collectors and minor collector routes, which are not designated as state highways with one or more of the following characteristics (1) extend to larger communities, (2) connect with roads of major importance in adjoining counties, (3) connect with state highways to form a network of main feeder roads, (4) carry heavy volumes of traffic serving major businesses and agricultural interest of the county, and (5) collect traffic at reasonable intervals from local roads.

Generally speaking, this process begins with a county judge identifying a need or desire for road or bridge improvements. The judge will contact the State Aid Engineer and an on-site field inspection is made to determine the type of project needed, scope of work, eligibility of work, and a cost estimate. If the judge wishes to proceed with the project, he or she will make a request by letter, and it will be programmed. The county must use these funds within two years, or the funds will be redistributed to the other counties.

To date State Aid projects consist of work on over 14,800 miles of roadway and 852 bridges, and include:

Over 4,850 projects = $1.12 billion

Federal Aid Funds = $331 million

State Aid Funds = $635 million

County Funds = $142 million

Other (FEMA, ADEM, HUD, HPP) = $14 million

The ARDOT State Aid Engineer is Bryan Freeling. Previous state aid engineers include Claude Klinck, David Mayo, Jake Weston, and John Kizer. The State Aid Program has a long-standing tradition of high quality and professional service.

History of the Bridge Inspection Program

Prior to the 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River, decisions regarding the allocation of funds for bridge projects were left for the states to decide. In other words, there was no federal program dedicated specifically to the construction and maintenance of bridges. Congress responded to this tragedy by passing the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968, which created the FWHA’s National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) and a National Bridge Inventory (NBI).

Under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968 and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970, the NBIS and the Special Bridge Replacement Program were implemented to require uniform inspection of all bridges, as well as the means to effectively administer federal aid, state aid, and local funds to assist state and local governments throughout the construction and replacement processes. For the first time, the NBIS required states to establish and implement bridge inspection programs and maintain an inventory of all the bridges on the Federal-Aid Highway System or bridges that are “On-System.”

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 further expanded the NBIS and NBI to include all bridge length structures on the public highway system, mandating state, county, and city bridges to be inspected and inventoried. This Act encompasses all the bridges that are off the Federal-Aid Highway System, or the “Off-System.” The passing of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 also led the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) to become the coordinating agency between the FHWA and the local agencies required to participate in the NBIS program. ARDOT has the responsibility of implementing the NBIS requirements for inventory, inspection, and load rating of bridge length structures on state, city, and county public highway systems, and of ensuring the counties’ and cities’ compliance.

ARDOT has 29 two-person teams dedicated to full-time inspection. One member from each team is certified in accordance with the federal regulations to be a bridge inspection team leader, which requires a combination of experience, taking and passing specific National Highway Institute courses, and refresher training. In addition, ARDOT has 16 Under Bridge Inspection Units (UBIT) to allow inspectors to access the structural elements and range in cost of $600,000 to $1 million, as well as 28 Unmanned Areial Vehicles (UAVs) and multiple dive teams utilized for both arial and underwater inspections.

The working relationship between FHWA, ARDOT, and local agencies to ensure the periodic and thorough inspection of Arkansas’ bridges is necessary to maintain safe bridge operation and to prevent structural and functional failures. In furtherance of this goal, the federal government provides funding to support the rehabilitation and replacement of existing bridges and roads and for the construction of new bridges and roads.

In July 2023, the FHWA and NBI reported that the Arkansas bridge inventory consisted of approximately 12,962 bridges. Of those 12,962, the state has identified 2,473 that need repairs and 697 — or 5.4 percent — are classified as poor bridges, meaning their deterioration has compromised strength and performance. Andrew “Andy” Nanneman, the State Bridge Operations Engineer for ARDOT, is the Program Manager for the Bridge Inspection Program.

Federal-Aid Bridge Replacement Program

Most bridge projects will receive a federal cost share up to 80 percent. For bridges on Interstate Highways, the federal share will generally be up to 90 percent. To make a funding request, a county judge of a Local Public Agency (LPA) must make a request via letter to the ARDOT director. The request should include the bridge’s structure number, if available, and a description of the location. Once awarded, most bridge projects will receive a federal cost share up to 80 percent, with the remaining 18 percent coming from state aid funds and 2 percent from county funds.

To be considered for Federal-Aid, proposed projects must be: (1) located on a route that is off the Federal-Aid Highway System; (2) on the National Bridge Inventory; and (3) owned by a county, town, township, city, municipality or other local agency, or federally recognized tribe. Funding priority and project development will be awarded to the projects that include the improvement or replacement of bridges that: (1) are in poor or fair condition; (2) are posted for weight restrictions or operationally restricted; or (3) have demonstrated safety issues.

The LPA will submit structures for consideration and ARDOT will respond to let the requestor know if the structures are eligible for the program. Following the eligibility notice, a two-step process is used. Step 1 consists of a feasibility study where the Program Management Division (PM) will coordinate with the LPA to develop a project agreement for the funding and selection of one of the Department’s on-call consultants. The goals of the feasibility study are to: (1) recommend the most appropriate improvement type; (2) determine the level of environmental impact; and (3) begin preliminary engineering up to 30 percent places and a planning-level cost estimate. No LPAs have made it to the feasibility study phase yet. However, based on a general planning-level estimate, the 67 eligible structures could cost between $90 million to $160 million.

If the LPA chooses to pursue Federal funding for the project through the Local Bridge Program, the PM will coordinate with them to develop a supplemental agreement for funding additional phases. All phases of approved projects will be eligible for funding, including feasibility studies, preliminary engineering, right of way acquisition, utility relocation, construction, and construction engineering. However, for any project that does not progress to the construction phase, the LPA involved will be responsible for repaying 100 percent of the right of way and utility relocation costs, including all non-reimbursable utility relocation costs and 10 percent of the preliminary engineering costs.

If the LPA decides to continue for project development, the LPA and ARDOT will coordinate for the project’s development. This includes ARDOT preparing a final plan and cost development and advertising the project. Further, ARDOT will execute the construction contract on behalf of the LPA. Upon the completion of the project, the LPA will resume its responsibility for the maintenance of the structure.

Currently ARDOT has referenced that $75 million dollars in funds have accumulated to be spent on eligible projects. Once those funds are spent, the department anticipates receiving an additional $10 million to $20 million annually based on the funding categories in the current Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

The department recently has received 36 requests from potential sponsors under this program, 25 of which were counties. This includes grant requests for 83 structures, with 67 of the structures determined to be eligible for the program. Viable bridge projects are not situated in each county in Arkansas. Our county judges need to continue to be diligent in working with ARDOT and explore eligibility of their bridges for suitable projects under this program.

For now, the Local Programs accepts all requests as they come in and doesn’t have a designated open grant application period. In 2021, 10 bridges off the National Highway System (NHS) were awarded with the eligible cost of $25.9 million.

David Siskowski is the division head of the ARDOT Local Programs Division. Directions on how to submit a grant application can be found on the department’s website at We appreciate the vigor and efforts being made in administering the Local Bridge Program.


In 1982, the FHWA began supporting local road agencies by providing training, technical assistance, and technology transfer services to help manage and maintain roadway systems. This is done primarily through LTAP, which comprises 51 local centers across the United States. ARDOT is responsible for the administration of FHWA’s LTAP funding for the state. LTAP’s goal is to benefit the local agency’s workforce that is challenged by limited access to training and technical assistance resources.

The primary objective of the LTAP Center is to provide support for FHWA and ARDOT is the disseminator of information and practices to local transportation agencies. Further, this program enables local agencies to develop safer, more efficient, and more economical road and street programs through the utilization of construction and maintenance, materials, and administration. Through the effective transfer of technologies, safety information and practices, workforce development, and the efficiency of roadway construction, the quality of local transportation systems may be significantly improved.

The LTAP manager will evaluate the eligibility and feasibility of each training request before working with an instructor to fulfill it. Examples of the course that LTAP has offered in the past includes flagger and work zone certification, CPR/ first-aid training, gravel road maintenance, asphalt basics, stormwater management, basic management and supervisory skills, and chainsaw safety. Training through LTAP is at no cost to local agencies. Patrick Thomas is the ARDOT LTAP coordinator. Dr. Stacey Williams, P.E., of the University of Arkansas, College of Civil Engineering, and other experienced instructors have been instrumental in creating high level training and technical assistance for our local agencies.

Counties and cities simply lack access to necessary safety training and best practices. LTAP has long served as the primary source of training for our county road crews. Our workers and the traveling public are safer for it; and our work crews have been afforded hundreds of hours of training on best practices for the construction and maintenance of our 50,000 plus miles of county roads.

The primary focus of LTAP is providing informational resources to the local agencies at the request of those local agencies. The resources are listed online in categories and under these categories are the classes available to the agencies. The agencies can select the course they are interested in for their specific need. The categories are Infrastructure Management, Safety, and Workforce Development. Employees can use the following link to view and request classes:

The LTAP has been consistent with the type of training provided and who benefits from it. Also, the LTAP will add a class if available to benefit the local agencies. For example, the LTAP manager has introduced a Work Zone Safety training to local agencies. This training is provided by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) using a grant through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The training began in December and will be available throughout the rest of Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2024, which is Oct. 1, 2023, through Sept. 30, 2024.

You may ask is there really interest in LTAP training? Or does anyone know of this program? These charts provide the answer to that question. Beginning with FFY 2021 you will see the incredible level of training LTAP has provided local agencies:


We hope our readers now have a greater understanding and appreciation of the valuable programs ARDOT administers in connection with local governments. Our county roads and city streets have greatly benefited over the years from the funding, training, and efficient administration by ARDOT. It is evident that many of our roads and bridges are in better physical condition and made safer by these important programs. ARDOT and local governments have developed a valuable partnership over the years that delivers significant dividends for Arkansans.

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