Engineer Jeff Knight monitors roads and bridges in Franklin and Jefferson Counties. He says, they have closed numerous bridges too dangerous to cross and some paved roads have deteriorated to gravel.
"We are purposefully turning some of those back to gravel simply because we can maintain a gravel road with a motor grader." said Knight.
A study by national transportation research group TRIP found 22 percent of Mississippi's rural roads are in poor condition- bridges are the 12th worst in the nation. State Senator Willie Simmons, chairs the Transportation Committee. He says they did an exhaustive study in 2013, held town hall meetings statewide to warn the public, but people didn't want to pay the price tag.
"They were in such condition at that particular point that we needed over two billion dollars to take care of our situation. Then we needed to increase the amount of money that we're putting in the system currently by two-fold in order to be able to manage it going forward." said Simmons.
Simmons states the problem stems from a 1987 plan to build highways that didn't fund maintaining them. That's when the gas tax was set at 18 cents and it hasn't increased. He says Mississippi receives 60 percent of its funding from the federal government, but it's not enough. Simmon says, 600 million dollars is needed for the next several years to begin to address the issue.
"We can spread it across the board so that all citizens who are impacted would participate in causing us to be able to maintain highways and bridges and it won't come just from those individuals who purchase gas." said Simmons.
Engineer Jeff Knight says Franklin and Jefferson Counties have received a 10 million dollar federal grant to build nine new bridges in each county.