Mississippi's three newly elected Transportation Commissioners have been sworn into office. MPB's Kobee Vance reports on their plans for Mississippi's aging transportation infrastructure.
Willie Simmons made history when he took his oath of office as Central District Transportation Commissioner. He became the first African American in state history to hold the office. Simmons served in the state legislature for 27 years and was the Chair of the Highways and Transportation Committee. He says his experience and friendships will be a valuable asset to funding state roads and bridges.
"That has put me in a position to have a great working relationship with the legislature over on the Capitol side, but also the new Governor and Lieutenant Governor and our board of supervisors. So with that, I think we're gonna be successful in generating resources as well as taking care of our infrastructure system."
Last year, two Mississippi Department of Transportation workers died while working on state roadways, according to Tom King. He is serving his third term as the Southern District Commissioner. King wants to increase safety for M.D.O.T. workers as they repair the state's infrastructure.
"We just ask people, please obey the law. Obey those signs and safety signs. The biggest distraction we have right now is our cellphones. Please put those distractions aside in a work zone. Really on the highway, you really shouldn't be texting.
The Commissioners say the largest hurdle they face is to secure funding. They say the net proceeds from the state's new lottery will help, however - the 80 million dollars they could receive annually is only a fraction of what they need to maintain all of Mississippi's roads.
Kobee Vance, MPB News