With President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan neatly secured, delivery of the funds allocated for each state, county and city is taking shape. Mississippi will receive some $4.46 billion through the measure.
The major share of the dollars –$3.3 billion – flowing to this state in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as it is officially known, will appropriately be for transportation projects.
“For decades, infrastructure in Mississippi has suffered from a systemic lack of investment,” a statement from the Federal Highway Administration said. “In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Mississippi a D+ grade on its infrastructure report card.”
Just what encompasses that failing grade for the state? Mainly, it’s the 8,480 miles of highways that are in poor condition and 1,386 bridges rated as deficient and dangerous for the driving public. The report says driving on roads that are in need of repair costs each Mississippi driver $637 yearly – certainly not a surprise to motorists who spend an inordinate amount of time dodging potholes and craters on interstate highways and local roads.
Based on a national formula, the state’s public transportation entities will draw $223 million over five years to improve the 41% of transit vehicles that are “past useful life.” Thousands of state residents count daily on public transit in Mississippi to transport them to medical appointments and the like.
Almost every locale worldwide today depends on internet connectivity to conduct business, teach secondary and university students and make other contacts essential to life itself. In Mississippi, almost 20% of the population lives where there is no broadband system. Even where it is available, about 41% cannot afford the service. Under the Biden act, $100 million will land in Mississippi to help alleviate this void.
The state will also receive $429 million over five years to improve systems that deliver safe drinking water. There are local water and sewer systems in Mississippi that compare to those in third world countries. Another fund will send $3.5 million here for weatherization to decrease energy costs for families.
It should be noted that these allocation figures are only estimates and that further infrastructure bill impacts will be forthcoming.
With Mississippi’s acknowledged long list of needs, you might figure that all of the state’s congressional delegation members were in there scratching and clawing for every dime they could secure. You’d be wrong about that.
Only two among our six-member congressional delegation voted in favor of the infrastructure act, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker and Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Republican Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo voted no.
Those no votes constitute acts of irresponsibility when considering the basic infrastructure needs of the regions of the state and the people they represent. There is not an area of Mississippi that doesn’t need the improvements coming through the act.
Kelly represents the booming region of Northwest Mississippi around DeSoto County. He should want a new coat of pavement for Interstate-22, where the Alabama side is much smoother. Guest’s district centers on roaring Rankin County, but myriad transportation ills face rural central Mississippi. The same is true for Palazzo along the Mississippi coast.
Hyde-Smith’s region is Mississippi from top to bottom and across, as is Wicker’s. He obviously recognizes along with Thompson that few states are in worse shape infrastructure-wise than Mississippi.
Still to come is the fight over who will administer and disburse the funds. That never fails to be part of the equation here.
Mac Gordon is a native of McComb. He is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at [email protected]