As we ready to welcome in 2019, members of the Mississippi Department of Transportation want one of the state’s New Year’s resolutions to be more commitment to fixing our roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.
It starts with tax reform to raise more maintenance funds, but the department also wants to see new strategies from all levels of government to monitor and keep up repairs to their community routes.
“City of Jackson streets are a prime example of that,” MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall stated. “When you don’t maintain them they fall apart, and when they fall apart they’re going to cost you a lot more to fix then if you’d just maintained them the way you should have.”
That’s been the case for many town and county roads over the past year after the federal government ordered the MDOT to inspect the conditions of streets and bridges in the state. The results, were very disturbing.
“So the Mississippi Department of Transportation took on this major task of starting to inspect these bridges and we closed hundreds of them,” Hall continued. “Closed them and posted a number of them.”
Those actions prompted Governor Phil Bryant to call a special session over the summer, forcing legislators to come up with an infrastructure funding plan giving the MDOT $250 Million to spend on emergency repairs. But transportation officials say they need much more.
“The submitted 691 applications I believe totaled just short of a billion dollars,” Hall said. “So we have a billion dollars in applications and we got about $250 million to spend.”
Now as a second step to come up with remaining funds, MDOT officials are purposing new tax plans at the pump. Not since 1987 has Mississippi raised its gas tax past the current rate it sits on at 18.4 cents a gallon. So come the New Year MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall is calling for a plan to raise that fee at the pump to tackle the whole states crumbling infrastructure.
“You expect to sit out here and try to maintain and build a highway system using money that was established 31 years ago,” Hall said. “You can’t do it, the prices of the material that goes into the construction of highway maintenance now has gone up 600% during that 31 years.”
Along with a higher amount in gas taxes, other spending plans already passed by the state government included internet sales taxes, and the state lottery. But even in those areas the MDOT still says it won’t be enough.