Mississippi Transportation Needs MountingState could face $6B deficit by 2019

From staff and wire reports: clarionledger.com

A national transportation advocacy group says Mississippi will face a $6 billion transportation-funding shortfall in the next decade if Congress fails to adopt a new transportation plan.

TRIP, a national transportation research group, says Mississippi will need $12.5 billion in transportation funding from now until 2019 to keep up with its infrastructure needs.

House and Senate transportation leaders will join TRIP representatives during a news conference today to outline the report, titled: “Future Mobility in Mississippi: Meeting the State’s Needs for Safe and Efficient Mobility.”

The event, scheduled for 11 a.m. at the state Capitol, is meant to push Congress to adopt a new long-term federal surface transportation plan.

Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director, said “thousands of jobs and the state’s economy are riding on” passage of a new transportation bill. A lack of adequate funding will put critical road and bridge repairs in jeopardy, and hinder the state’s ability to attract new businesses, the report says.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate circulated a new jobs bill Tuesday that could infuse states with new transportation dollars. But some lawmakers say reauthorization of the six-year $286 billion federal transportation funding act is more crucial.

The TRIP report says wear and tear on vehicles caused by neglected roadways cost each Mississippi motorist an average $394 annual operating costs because it leads to accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, increased fuel costs and tire wear.

In total, bad roads cost Mississippians $774 million a year, the report says.

The report outlines several road needs identified by the Mississippi Department of Transportation that could be in jeopardy for lack of federal and state funding.

According to a news release, projects that could be in jeopardy include:

  • Expansion of Mississippi 15 from two to four lanes from I-20 to the Tennessee state line.
  • Construction of Hattiesburg Beltway and Jackson Beltway.
  • Construction of a four-lane Mississippi 601 from I-10 to Wiggins.
  • Construction of four-lane I-6 9/269 from the Arkansas state line to the Tennessee state line.

The report says 22 percent of roads in the state were in “poor” or “very poor” condition. Bridges have fallen into disrepair, it says, with 17 percent “structurally deficient” and an additional 8 percent “functionally obsolete.”

Further, it says congestion is a growing problem in urban areas where population growth has outpaced added lane miles. The report classifies 28 percent of the state’s urban highways as congested.

The state continues to log significant fatalities despite a decrease in highway-related deaths between 2005 and 2008, the report says.

Mississippi ranks sixth in its rate of traffic deaths, with nearly 900 people annually dying in vehicle accidents between 2004 and 2008.

The state’s current traffic fatality rate of 1.79 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is 43 percent above the national average. That rate dropped below 2 for the first time in 2008; it was at 2.32 in 2005.

The number of traffic-related deaths in 2008 dropped to 738 compared to 931 deaths in 2005.

The federal stimulus program has granted Mississippi roughly $350 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements, which the report calls a significant help but not a cure-all for the structural problems facing the state.

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