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Report To The People

State Needs Long Term Plan To Meet Crucial Needs For Highway and Bridge Needs

By Tommy Reynolds

Many important measures were passed into law during the 2015 session, and this column will highlight a few of those acts that addressed transportation and highway safety.  To be sure, the closing days of the recent session were not as dramatic as last year, when the House rejected anemic road and bridge funding and forced a special session on the final day to address transportation needs.

This year, we were able to provide some well-deserved help for our roads and bridges throughout the state.  While these efforts did not fund all the great needs in this area of essential government service, they made good strides in tackling the issue.

In Mississippi’s rural and small town areas, the conditions of our roads and bridges are of paramount importance because many of us travel long miles to church, work and school. It is certainly not a surprise that the recent Great Recession had many casualties, including the systematic maintenance and repair of our roads and bridges. 

We have all been alarmed at the reports of structurally deficient bridges in Mississippi over recent months. According to a study published by National Bridge Inventor, in 2013 over 13 percent of Mississippi’s 17,044 bridges were needing replacement – that means that Mississippi drivers were traveling over 2,274 deficit bridges about 1.2 million times every day.

The same year, the American Road  Transpor-tation Builders Association ranked Mississippi 10th nationally in the number of structurally deficient bridges.

The Mississippi Department of Transpor-tation  maintains an inventory of 5,731 bridges and 29,000 highway lane miles.  Additionally, our county supervisors maintain county rural bridges and roads. 

House Bill 1630 sets aside $162 million for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to apply toward bridge repair and replacement for our State highway bridges.   This amount represents funding for approximately 16 percent of critically needed state highway system bridges.  

In the future, I believe that it is vital that our state have a long term and thoroughly organized plan to meet the crucial needs for state highway and bridge repair and replacement.

If we do not continue to address this problem, it will jeopardize the movement of agricultural, industrial and commercial goods and services throughout our state and will unnecessarily endanger the lives of our citizens.

Other related legislation passed includes House Bill 982, which removes the requirement of the vehicle inspection sticker beginning July 1.  Many of us had recognized this program as being outdated and an unnecessary hassle for drivers. 

We were also able to offer drivers the opportunity to present proof of insurance electronically.  Today, many insurance companies provide customers with copies of their insurance cards that can be displayed on cell phones.  This is a convenience whose time has come, and we expect law enforcement officers as well as drivers will be grateful for the ease this measure provides. Senate Bill 2380 passed the House unanimously.

Please feel free to contact me at 1720 N Main St., Water Valley, MS 38965, email me at thomasureynolds@bellsouth.net or by phone at (662) 473-2571.  I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have. 

 

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