AASHTO Journal, 10 April 2015
The Mississippi Legislature, in the last week of its session, voted to raise $200 million in bond financing to pay for transportation investments, most of that to target the state’s list of structurally deficient bridges.
The House gave final approval March 30 to a House-Senate conference report on the legislation, following Senate adoption a day earlier. That sent the bill to Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed it into law April 6. It takes effect July 1.
Under the measure, $20 million in bond-generated revenue would go into the State Aid Road Fund that helps counties maintain secondary roads, and $18 million would go to the Department of Transportation to build a roadway bridge in Vicksburg.
The remaining $162 million would be used, the legislation says, at the “discretion of the Mississippi Transportation Commission, to pay the costs of repair, rehabilitation, replacement, construction and/or reconstruction of the bridges on state-maintained highways that are on a list of deficient bridges compiled by the Mississippi Department of Transportation as of July 1, 2015.”
The bonds would reportedly be paid for by casino tax receipts, which have been flowing to roads in counties with casinos along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River.
That legislation came just before the American Road & Transportation Builders Association released a report showing that while states and local governments have made some progress in in bridge conditions, the nation still has a backlog of 61,000 structurally deficient bridges. The ARTBA report included a state-by-state breakdown as well.
On April 2 Melinda McGrath, executive director of the Mississippi DOT, said the ARTBA analysis “shows that the time for action is now, not years down the deteriorated road.”
McGrath said Mississippi has more than 2,200 structurally deficient bridges, and noted that the state Legislature had just approved the state bonding to help address the infrastructure need.
But McGrath also linked the bridge upgrading challenge to lack of action by Congress to give long-term program certainty to the Highway Trust Fund.
“The need for federal funding to repair roads and bridges has never been greater,” she said. “Continued delays in federal funding will eventually create safety hazards for the traveling public and devastate economic growth.”