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New $1.1 Billion Road and Bridge Plan Passes Senate

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New $1.1 Billion Road and Bridge Plan Passes Senate
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County Bridge with Timber worn away from overpass
Courtesy: MDOT

Leaders in the Mississippi senate moved swiftly to pass a new $1.1 billion infrastructure plan that's headed to the House. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

The Bridge Act is a complex five year plan to fund Mississippi's crumbling infrastructure without raising taxes. The bill tackles roads, bridges, leaking dams, water and sewer lines repairs. It includes issuing bonds, putting the two percent set aside from the state budget for the Rainy Day Fund into programs for bridge replacement and a strategic highway initiative. Republican Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall authored the bill which also increases the sales tax diverted to cities and counties.

"They currently receive an 18 1/2 percent payback and we would increase that from 18 1/2 percent to 20 percent," said Fillingane.

Filligane says communities will have to match that additional 1 1/2 percent sales tax increase. The measure takes $25 million per year for five years out of the Mississippi Department of Transportation's $1.2 billion budget. The money will go into a special fund. Also a panel will advise the governor on prioritizing bridge work. Melinda McGrath with MDOT says prioritizing projects is the job of the transportation commissioners.

"The bill itself looks like it wants to strip the transportation commission of their powers which are to ensure the department of transportation operates efficiently, fairly and that we follow the state law and they tell us exactly how to prioritize," said McGrath.

Democratic Senator Angela Turner-Ford of Westpoint voted no. She's concerned about MDOT's funding.

"My question is how is that agency going to function. In addition to that, the money that would be allocated to the counties, how are the counties going to function," said

Governor Phil Bryant agrees his office should have some input into infrastructure plans.