EDITORIAL: Bonds for highways

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Mississippi House late Tuesday afternoon passed a $300 million supplemental bonding bill to enhance highway and bridge construction in high-priority categories. It includes a four-lane Highway 9 connector from Mississippi Highway 6 in Pontotoc to U.S. Highway 78 at Sherman, a key transportation component for the Toyota assembly plant at Blue Springs.
The funding, however, does not include work on a Highway 9/Highway 348 connector from Blue Springs to near Baldwyn, where a Toyota supplier Toyota Autobody has been built and is expected to create heavy truck traffic once auto production begins in Blue Springs. That traffic would be routed off U.S. 45 and U.S. 78 and away from the already congested roads around the Barnes Crossing commercial district in north Tupelo.
The bill, which was passed by the House in similar forms in previous sessions and never passed by the Senate, would add money above Mississippi Department of Transportation program funds for special priorities:
- $42 million for the economic development highway program.
- $138 million for highway bridge replacement and repair.
- $80 million to the Vision 21 statewide four-laning program, whose priorities are set in statute.
- $40 million for county road and bridge work.
The 90-30 passage margin indicates strong, bipartisan support for the program and continued high interest among House members for highway work.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Warner McBride, D-Courtland, told the House that the issue recurs because the state has no funds in regular budget streams for additional work and because the Senate has refused to support the House bill in previous sessions.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he opposes the Highway 9/348 construction because he does not believe it is needed and because it is opposed by many landowners alone the proposed route.
We hope an intentional conversation develops about the Blue Springs to Baldwyn route among all the principal parties to full economic development in the region: the PUL Alliance, legislators, professional economic developers, civic leaders – and Gov. Barbour, who has strongly backed the new road link to the Toyota Autobody plant. If changes are needed, make them.
The bill of course would become a major jobs creator – as do all highway-infrastructure construction programs that are efficiently administered.
Holland said he believes “thousands” of jobs would develop as the contracts are awarded.
The optimum highway system for Mississippi needs interconnections like the Pontotoc-Sherman route, Highway 15, Mississippi 25, Mississippi 7 and the Highway 9/348 road.
We hope the Senate votes for the program.