By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Supervisors in the six counties that make up the Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development District told legislators Wednesday they support state funding to four-lane Highway 9 north of the Toyota plant at Blue Springs.
Legislation died in the Senate earlier this week that would have diverted $40 million in bond funds specified for the Highway 9 project to general highway construction projects throughout the state. The legislation, which split the Northeast Mississippi delegation, had passed the House earlier.
Legislators from the TAP Alliance counties of Tishomingo, Alcorn and Prentiss favor using the $40 million on the Highway 9 project to develop another route to entice Toyota suppliers to locate in their counties.
But some Northeast Mississippi House members, such as Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said any Toyota supplier in the TAP counties could use U.S. 45/U.S. 78. Plus, he said many landowners that would be affected had voiced objections.
On Wednesday, the additional Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development District counties – Tippah, Benton and Marshall – voiced support for the project during a meeting with legislators.
As part of an effort to reach a compromise, the TAP Alliance has developed a new plan that would four-lane Highway 9 all the way to Highway 30 and exclude state Highway 348 from the new route. Much of the opposition to the project has come from landowners on 348.
Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, said Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert told him it would take up to an additional $180 million to complete the project. He said Tagert recommended using a small portion of the $40 million to do an environmental study on a new route.
Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter, R-Burnsville, said a member of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s office told him Cochran was working to find federal funds for the project.