Natchez not getting road money

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 30, 2005

NATCHEZ &8212; Until further notice, Natchez won&8217;t get any more of the federal funds sent aside to repair some of its busiest thoroughfares.

But neither will any other Mississippi town, for that matter.

Federal Aid Urban funds, which are administered at the state level by the Department of Transportation, are used to repair arterial roads. Examples of streets improved with FAU money in recent years have included Orleans Street and, currently, Minor Street.

Email newsletter signup

But City Engineer David Gardner received a letter Monday from MDOT notifying him that, at least for now, Natchez won&8217;t be getting more of those funds.

&8220;That&8217;s going to hurt us,&8221; Gardner said. &8220;We were probably going to use that money to mill and overlay Union and other downtown streets we didn&8217;t get to in 1990.

&8220;But that&8217;s not MDOT&8217;s fault &8212; it&8217;s due to (Hurricane) Katrina.&8221;

That&8217;s true, according to Gae Blain, director of external affairs for MDOT.

Mississippi&8217;s FAU program was first suspended in 2004 after the Legislature transferred money from MDOT&8217;s budget to the general fund, Blain said.

&8220;We were planning to reinstate that program in October but held off due to funding issues,&8221; she said.

One of those issues is that Hurricane Katrina left much of the Gulf Coast&8217;s infrastructure needing costly repairs.

Until it gets emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration, MDOT will have to hold off on other programs such as FAU.

&8220;And we don&8217;t know when we can expect that (emergency relief) money or how much we&8217;ll get,&8221; Blain said. &8220;Hopefully, it will be by the end of the fiscal year, which ends in June.

&8220;The bottom line is that it&8217;s not just Natchez that isn&8217;t getting these funds.&8221;

MDOT intends to reinstate the FAU program when the emergency relief money comes in, Blain said. Until then, cities&8217; applications for funds will be kept on file.

The Minor Street project, including widening and overlaying of it and adjacent streets, drainage work and more, is being paid for with $900,000 in FAU funds plus a 20 percent city match.

The city&8217;s last FAU project was completed late last year. That $192,912 project included overlaying Orleans between Martin Luther King Jr. to South Pearl streets, South Commerce Street between Orleans to State streets and South Pearl between Orleans and Washington streets.