State should fund roads and bridges

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 4, 2018

Road and bridgework are among the most expensive projects local, state and federal government undertake. They also are among the most important work governments undertake.

Why then has the State of Mississippi consistently put off instituting an adequate funding system for maintenance and repair of the state’s roads and bridges? Earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration forced the state to close more than 100 unsafe bridges, after the Legislature failed to come up with funding solutions in the regular session.

Every citizen benefits from adequately maintained roads and bridges, primarily because citizens deserve to travel on safe and well-maintained roads and bridges.

Impassable roads and bridges make emergency rescue efforts — fire, health or otherwise — more difficult and result in lengthy response times that could make the difference in life and death. Adequate roads and bridges also are important for economic development, particularly in rural areas and areas such as Natchez and Adams County that are off the beaten path.

Fortunately, Adams County has been able to maintain its roads and bridges by offering low-interest bonds to pay for the upkeep and the county has only three bridges closed, for now, two of which are ready to reopen once state investigators inspect recent repair work.

As interest rates go up, however, the cycle of bond issues to pay for the expensive road and bridgework will be too costly to continue, county supervisors have said.

Not surprisingly, the Mississippi Road Builders Association Inc. has announced its support for a fuel tax to fund state road and bridgework and 57 percent of likely voters, a recent Mason-Dixon poll showed, support such a tax.

A few extra cents per gallon at the pump is a small price to pay to save lives and improve economic prospects.

Since the Mississippi Legislature failed to fund road and bridgework in its regular session they should convene a special session to deal with the lack of funding and legislators should do so without pay.

Otherwise, the oversight is a dereliction of the Legislature’s basic duties.