Underfunded Transportation System Crisis
The state’s transportation system isn’t being kept up because it’s underfunded, leaving state roads and bridges crumbling. This is according to MDOT’s Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King in a Hattiesburg press conference today. He stresses it’s going to take a lot of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, to make these roads and bridges safe again.
Hundreds of state roads and bridges are crumbling and according to the state’s transportation commissioner a lack of funding is putting up road blocks when it comes to fixing them. Transportation Commissioner Tom King said, “We’re doing the best we can with what we have and some of the roads and some of the state roads in South Mississippi are being prioritized and everything else just has to go by the wayside. We can’t fix every road because of a lack of funds.”
Last year, 667 Mississippians were killed on state roadways. Commissioner King says if our roads continue on in such a state of disrepair more lives could be at risk. “God forbid any school buses that would go over a bridge and it would fall. One death is not worth it. We will take care of this issue and do the best we can and prioritize before something like that happens,” said King.
King says it will take about $400 million per year over an eight year period to get these projects back on track, expressing support for a fuel tax increase that has not seen change since 1987.
With a fuel tax rolling in at more than 18 cents a gallon, News 25 asked MDOT if the commissioner plans to go after any of the BP settlement money. “The BP money is the Coast’s money. At least the bottom three counties, bottom six counties. I think they can use that in those cities and in those counties for county or city roads and that’s where it should go,” said King.
King says about 900 bridges need repair or reconstruction with about 30,000 highway miles needing attention. Twenty one projects in the three coastal counties alone remain unfunded, including several crumbling bridges on Highway 49. MDOT District 6 Engineer Kelly Castleberry said, “Some of those bridges have been up since the 1930s. We have some of those bridges down in Jackson County as well on Highway 613, 614. We have a bridge at state route 57 they’re in the same position. They have timber piling and MDOT has gone in and we have punched holes through the deck and driven additional timber piles in there just to keep motorists on them, but at some point we’ll have to shut that bridge down if we don’t get the funding to reprogram these projects.”