Mississippi Economic Group Urges Hike in Road, Bridge Spending by $375M a Year

AASHTO Journal, 8 January 2016

A task force formed by the Mississippi Economic Council to study transportation infrastructure has called for state lawmakers to come up with $375 million a year in added funding to improve roads and bridges.

The task force said that funding stream would provide $3.75 billion in new revenue over the first 10 years for the state Department of Transportation and local governments to invest through a campaign it calls “Excelerate Mississippi.” Under the proposal, $300 million of the annual funding boost would go to state road and bridge improvements, while counties and cities would receive $75 million.

exmiss.jpgThe report said that added revenue will not be nearly enough to cover the full backlog of needed upgrades in state and local road systems, which it calculated at $6.6 billion.

Instead, the plan said the extra funding it seeks would help Mississippi “to catch-up on bridge and road surface repair on major state thoroughfares which connect our communities through the four-lane highway system, while at the same time providing a significant boost to local communities to leverage local resources to improve failing infrastructure.”

The report does not endorse any particular financing measures to reach the revenue goal, but has a section that lists how much the state could generate by such measures as raising per-gallon motor fuel excise taxes or vehicle licensing fees, setting a percentage sales tax on gasoline and diesel fuel or hiking general sales taxes for transportation funding.

It said if policymakers chose to derive all the revenue from direct users of the roadway network, the cost to the average driver would be 37 cents a day. But that driver would see infrastructure benefits saving many times that amount from the improvements, it added.

The report also warned that the costs of not taking action would force drivers to pay about $600 a year more than now in a range of extra expenses, and that inaction would allow highway improvements from a past statewide investment program to erode from lack of maintenance.

The task force was made up of industry CEOs and the heads of various industry or community associations. Its chairman, CEO Joe Sanderson of Sanderson Farms, wrote: “Today, the cost of preserving our transportation infrastructure far exceeds the revenue that is dedicated to it. In fact, if we fail to act, all we will be able to do is manage the decline of our transportation system.”

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