Tagert: Justification a must for projects

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mike Tagert says rails, airports and waterways join good roads as important features in a total transportation system.
“We have an extensive rail system – it needs more recognition – and our short lines are under-utilized,” Tagert said this week during an interview with the Daily Journal. “Rail opens up opportunities for smaller communities that may not have a four-lane.”
If elected to the three-member panel, the 40-year-old from Starkville said that whatever projects and plans he champions must be “justifable” by cost and regional or statewide impact.
Tagert has transportation experience as president of the Tenn-Tom Waterway Development Council, which promotes public and private interests in the operation of the waterway.
He says his job has given him a wider perspective on what Mississippi’s transportation needs are and will be to provide opportunities for economic development, jobs and better living standards for the state’s residents.
He says it’s time for the Transportation Commission to be more than road-builders for “more effective, pragmatic leadership” to build stronger relationships with the Legislature and the public so that newly developed goals are more likely to gain necessary support for funding.
He also says with the prospect of hiring a new executive director and a new officeholder in the Southern District seat, “we can take a good look at the agency, think about what we can have and exactly what we need, which is effective management and the good image it deserves.”
The state’s most recent plan for highway construction and roadway upgrades – known as Vision 21 – needs the same funding commitments that completed the 1987 Highway Act for four-lane programs statewide, Tagert said.
While he said he doesn’t favor an increase in the state fuel tax, which currently funds much of the state’s transportation programs, it’s an issue that will come up eventually, he predicts.
Tagert also said he:
– Sees “huge opportunities” for Mississippi’s Gulf port and waterway system after the 2014 completion of a Panama Canal expansion to accommodate super-sized cargo ships and says he’s worked “extensively” with the region’s transportation departments to prepare for trade expansion.
– Will seek federal funding for projects that can be “justified” as regional or statewide investments, rather than small, piece-meal funding regarded as “earmarks” or pork-barrel spending brought home by individual members of Congress.
– Supports yearly progress on transportation goals, saying he believes the state has the funding in its budget to make progress on Vision 21, including a Highway 15 upgrade to a prominent north-south corridor.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.

Mike Tagert
– Age – 40
– Home – Starkville
– Current job – president, Tenn-Tom
Waterway Development Council
– Jan. 11 election – 10,557 votes and
led in 10 of the district’s 33 counties.