COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — The Mississippi Department of Transportation says road and bridge projects could come to a screeching halt if Congress doesn’t act fast. Transportation funds must be approved by Aug. 1.
The Highway Trust Fund, which helps states pay for transit repairs, could have a zero balance by the end August. Without the Federal funding, Mississippi could stand to lose 470 million dollars for highway and transit improvements. MDOT won’t have the funds to pay contractors.
“If we get into this partial reimbursement in the busiest time for construction which is the summer months, we would have to issue work stop orders,” says MDOT Executive Director, Melinda McGrath.
Dozens of businesses across the state could also see a dramatic drop in revenue.
“We’ll be looking at stoppage in work, lay offs. It will have a ripple effect through sub-contractors, suppliers, vendors. It could be bad,” says Bob Phillips, President of Phillips Contracting Company in Columbus.
Business leaders and labor groups are concerned, but Congress is still deadlocked on how to pay for the highway trust.
“You can get work done now cheaply that eventually you’re going to have to do anyway. This is the time to do highway construction. This is the time to build and maintain roads. It’s frustrating that we’re failing do that in Jackson and it’s frustrating they’re failing to do that in Congress,” says Senator Hob Bryan, who serves Monroe and Itawamba Counties in District 7.
“Without the presence of a 6-year transportation bill that’s fully funded, state governments, local governments. They can’t plan,” says McGrath.
Congress will leave for a month-long summer break on August 1st. Last year, Mississippi ranked 13th highest in the nation for rural bridges in poor condition.
There is still some good news for transportation projects in Mississippi. The State Legislature approved 32 million dollars in aid for local roads and bridges in the 2014 session.