JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Mississippi Department of Transportation is addressing funding for roads and bridges.
According to MDOT officials, underfunding is leading to the crumbling of the state’s roads and bridges.
“The current level of funding means the state-owned rural highway system will continue to be neglected,” said Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “In order to save Mississippi’s transportation system, action must be taken today. There has been no significant change in state revenue for roads and bridges since 1987. This has caused many Mississippi highways to crumble past the point of repair, and they now require complete rehabilitation.”
The deterioration of the state’s highway network is most noticeable along rural routes. MDOT officials said the roads and bridges in those areas are passable, but the condition is poor. The longer these rural roads continue to be ignored, the worse the situation will become, and the more money it will cost the taxpayers of Mississippi to fix.
“At the request of Legislative leadership, MDOT provided a list of transfers that fund non-highway programs at other state and local agencies totaling $50 million,” said Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall. “These non-highway programs are mandated, but unfunded, and must be paid out of MDOT’s budget. If MDOT could use these funds on highways, an immediate increase of $50 million would be spent on state-owned rural roads.”
MDOT’s budget request for FY 2017 was $1.2 billion. MDOT officials said after federal dollars, including local match funds and project specific revenue bonds, are removed from MDOT’s budget, $300 million remains for operational costs.
“This $300 million is used for daily operational expenses,” McGrath said. “This includes $200 million the state spends on routine maintenance for patching potholes, repairing roadway slides, repairing bridges and clearing roadways after emergencies as first responders, just to name a few.”
“MDOT is utilizing its funding to meet the state-owned transportation system’s greatest needs; however, the condition of roads continues to deteriorate faster than the state has the funding to improve them,” McGrath said. “During our most recent legislative information request, MDOT produced research information indicating an additional $400 million annually for 10 to 15 years is needed to halt the deterioration and restore the state-owned highway system for Mississippi to remain economically competitive and reduce fatalities.”
Unless additional funding is secured, numerous paving, bridge and capacity upgrade projects across Central Mississippi will not be constructed.
“If funded, these projects will connect major routes in rural areas while repairing deficient bridges,” Hall said.