Now is not time to relight bridges

Published 7:50 pm Thursday, August 13, 2020

Local officials may be seeking a bright silver lining during this strange year, but do they see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel at the expense of our cash-strapped state?

In the same week Gov. Tate Reeves announced the State of Mississippi could not afford to supplement the wallets of unemployed workers, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the state was planning to help relight the bridges between Natchez and Vidalia.

For nearly a decade, a series of lights attached to the side of the structures made the bridge shine. Featured in advertisements and on social media, images of the lighted bridges were a sign of pride for local officials and many residents.

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In 2018, the lights were taken down by the Mississippi Department of Transportation after an extensive bridge refurbishment project. At the time, MDOT officials offered hope the lights could return. The only question was who would pay for the installation of the project.

That was two years ago when the state was not dealing with the after-effects of COVID-19 and a month-long lockdown that threatened the livelihoods of state businesses and their employees.

Gibson announced Tuesday he had a verbal agreement from the MDOT executive director to relight the bridges.

The day before, Reeves said the $100-a-week supplement to the state’s unemployed workers required by one of President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders is too much to pay and would drain the state’s unemployment trust fund in 10 weeks.

While we hope to one day see the bridges once again become shining beacons on the Mississippi River, we wonder if now is the time for the state and our city to commit funds for a project that may not be essential in these uncertain times. What might look like hope for local officials may be taking away hope for other more necessary endeavors.