Road, bridge state funds are needed

Published 1:25 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

More funds must be allocated if Mississippi expects to keep its roads and bridges from crumbling.

Mississippi Department of Transportation officials are concerned lawmakers working to balance the state’s budget will look at the agency’s budget for a place to whittle.

While practically any state agency can improve its efficiency, making any significant cuts to MDOT’s budget does not seem wise.

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Mississippi’s infrastructure is already becoming brittle and beginning to crumble in places and that says nothing of new highway projects that need to be constructed.

In 1987, state lawmakers had a collective vision about the state’s transportation future. In that year, the Legislature passed a piece of landmark legislation dubbed the “1987 Highway Program.”

The program included plans for the construction of more than 1,000 miles of four-lane highway.

For a period of time after the long-range project was completed, Mississippi had a good highway system.

The challenge is no additional funds are allocated to maintain and protect that long-range investment.

Drive down sections of John R. Junkin Drive — officially known as U.S. 84 — and symptoms of problems can be seen and felt as motorists travel over sections of raised and warped pavement.

Across the state a number of bridges are below par and miles and miles of highway are long past their prime. But investing in transportation isn’t just about driver comfort. It’s also about driver safety and about economic development.

The same highways that Mississippians use for travel to football games and family reunions also are arteries for commerce. We need to keep those arteries clean and clear by routing maintenance.

Before state lawmakers lock in a budget for the Mississippi Department of Transportation for the next fiscal year, hopefully they will take a quick drive down to Natchez or many other corners of the state and see the need and ultimately invest in our state’s future.