By Tommy Reynolds
You may remember discussions about the late night activities in the House Chamber on April 2, when we forced consideration for much-needed local road and bridge construction to benefit our rural areas before we adjourned sine die.
Specifically, the House earlier voted to kill the original State Aid Road and Bridge Construction bill and the State Department of Transportation appropriation bill, forcing the governor to call a special session within the session to make sure that the programs received funding for Fiscal Year 2015. We refused to approve the original measures because they did not contain projects for all areas of the state. After we made our point, we were given opportunity to vote on more equitable versions of the bills during the called special session, which took about an hour on that last evening.
I was very proud of my colleagues as we stood up on behalf of our rural and small town areas. Our action resulted in an expanded appropriation to include much-needed road and bridge repairs. Also included in the legislation were funds to provide repairs and upgrades of qualifying local bridges.
Senate Bill 2001 of the first extraordinary session provides additional funding for the Local System Bridge and Rehabilitation Program for the year beginning July 1 in the amount of $20 million. I strongly supported the creation of this program and have supported over the years continuing funding of this program. It provides for replacement or improvement for bridges over roads within a county that are not on the designated State Aid System or the state highway system. This bridge program is reserved for replacement or repair of deficient bridges that are judged to be below 50 percent sufficiency rating.
When you live out in rural or small town areas like many of us do, the condition of our roads and bridges is especially important because most of us travel significant distances to work, church and school. There is just no room in our lives for a collapsed bridge in our paths. That’s why I am so pleased that we were able to include this important bridge funding within the measure.
For example, since the beginning of the program Yalobusha County has replaced four deficient bridges with the Local System Bridge Program and has a total of 17 bridges yet to be replaced. For the year 2014, Yalobusha County should receive, according to the State Aid Road Division, $122,000 from the program and will as of the end of this year have received $3,266,322.00 from the State of Mississippi through this program.
It is very difficult to conceive of Yalobusha County being able to replace these deficient bridges strictly from local property tax funds. This is why I am glad that this program has and is a strong assist for our people living in rural areas. I will continue to fight for adequate funding every year for this program. I have been a strong supporter of the Local System Bridge Program since its beginning and am very proud of the work that has been done through it to provide our citizens safe driving conditions in the rural areas.
Please feel free to contact me at 1720 N. Main St., Water Valley, MS 38965, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.