State agencies are meeting with a Mississippi senate committee to lay out the cost of fixing the state's crumbling roads and bridges. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Melinda McGrath with the Mississippi Department of Transportation says 4,000 miles of state roads are in poor condition. Every year 400 miles are added to the list. McGrath is meeting with the senate highways and transportation committee. It's their second day of meetings to hear about infrastructure problems and solutions. McGrath says MDOT has a budget of $1.2 billion. After distributions to entities like cities and counties, it has about $650 million for infrastructure.
"It doesn't cover but about 1,600 lane miles a year. We think it would take about $400 million additional dollars a year," said McGrath.
McGrath says improvement delays can increase costs up to 16 times the actual rate. She also talked about the Federal Highway Administration's bridge inspection program. Some 310 county bridges have been closed; many by federal inspectors. Some Republican senators are concerned about the government stepping in. MDOT doesn't oversee county bridges, but McGrath says the feds closed them after county engineers left dangerous ones open.
"Some of the reasons for them to remain were, 'Well we're going to take bids on another bridge soon, so we should be able to leave this open,' " said McGrath.
Committee Chair Democrat Willie Simmons of Cleveland, says if the state doesn't comply with inspection requirements it will lose nearly 46 percent of its transportation funding. He says the meetings will help them propose a bill to pay for infrastructure upgrades.
"On the senate side, we are fully aware of the need and we are trying to struggle through a process to find ways and means to bring resources to the table to help it," said Simmons.
Simmons supports a 7-cent tax increase, bumping-up the cigarette tax and a lottery.