MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Mississippi Economic Council.
An investment of an additional $375 million annually is needed to address the most vital road and bridge needs in Mississippi at the state and local level, according to a report released Friday, Dec. 18 by the MEC Blueprint Mississippi Transportation Infrastructure Task Force.
MEC also announced the formation of 'Excelerate Mississippi', a program designed to support the initiatives outlined by the Blueprint Task Force.
"As I drive across our state, today, I see first-hand that we are on the verge of losing our competitive edge. The massive investment that was made in our state's transportation system as a result of the 1987 AHEAD program will be lost," said Joe F. Sanderson, Chairman & CEO of Sanderson Farms, and chair of the Blueprint Task Force. "This is why it is so important that we work together to preserve this asset that so many leaders fought so hard to build.
"Roads across our state are beginning to crumble. Bridges aren't safe. This is happening on our state-owned system – as well as with our local roads and bridges."
The Blueprint Study determined 80 percent of the new revenue, $300 million, should be dedicated to state-owned bridge and road needs. Counties and municipalities should receive the remaining 20 percent to be split between them, both receiving $37.5 million.
A $375 million annual investment would:
- Enable the replacement of 138 state posted bridges – those that are no longer able to carry the weight and traffic they were designed to carry.
- Provide that all timber bridges would also be replaced.
- Replace another 424 deficient state bridges during the 10-year timeframe.
- Ramp up the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s pavement maintenance across the state.
- Enable local leaders to address the roads and bridges that are in the worst conditions.
"Dedicating this new revenue to state and local bridge replacement and road maintenance will stabilize our state's transportation system and put us on the path to protecting our investment," said Scott Waller, Executive Vice President and COO of MEC, who served as chief staff support for the study's research team and the Blueprint Task Force.
Blake Wilson, MEC President & CEO, said the value of implementing the Blueprint Task Force recommendation of investing $375 million annually, would not only address Mississippi's deteriorating roads and bridges, but it would also provide a direct return on investment to those using the transportation system.
"For Mississippians to make this investment in assuring safer roads and bridges – it would take just 37 cents a day, per registered vehicle," Wilson said. "And as the improvements are made over time, this investment would produce a return of $1.45 a day in reduced drive-time, maintenance and wear and tear, according to economic models."
'Excelerate Mississippi' is ramping up the conversation about the need for making an investment today in our highway system that will bring meaningful economic returns in the decade to come, and for many decades beyond, Wilson said.
"Just remember, this isn't someone else's issue, it is your issue," Wilson said. "We are talking about a crumbling road and bridge system. These aren't other people's roads and bridges; these are your roads and bridges. You are all driving on them every day."
For a list of deficient state and local bridges by county, as well as state pavement conditions by county, go to www.exceleratems.com.
A scientific poll commissioned by MEC and conducted by Southern Research Group of Jackson polled 1,000 registered voters from all four Congressional districts earlier this month, showed overwhelming support for quality roads and bridges and for a 10-year plan to address this need.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3percent for the total sample.
The Blueprint Task Force, composed of business leaders and community resource members, from across Mississippi, began studying the issue in June 2014. A grant from Robert M. Hearin Foundation provided funding for research conducted by the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Logistics, Trade and Transportation, Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government, and MSU's Industrial & Systems Engineering Department and the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems. Other research was funded through private sector donations to Blueprint Mississippi. Cambridge Systematics, a private sector consulting firm, analyzed all data provided from the research teams.