On Friday, Sen. Willie Simmons (D-Cleveland), chairman of the Mississippi Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, announced that over the course of last week federal inspectors had closed more than 100 bridges on local roads in the state, The Clarion Ledger reports.
This came on the heels of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves announcing the death of a bill that would have raised transportation money through an Internet sales tax. Projections for the proposal showed that collections could have generated an annual revenue of between $50 million and $175 million for needed repairs.
The bill was killed over concerns that it was unconstitutional as states like Alabama have been in litigation over similar legislation. However, a House bond bill that would let the state borrow $50 million for repairs is still alive.
The Office of State Aid Road Construction is compiling a list of the closures, engineer Carey Webb told the news agency. He explained that two teams accompanied federal inspectors to bridges with low substructure ratings of two on a scale of zero to nine. He added that some bridges were in such bad shape that they were closed on the spot.
Last Wednesday, members of the state’s business community gathered at the Capitol to call for more transportation funding. The Mississippi Economic Council contends that an additional $375 million per year is needed, citing findings from a study conducted by the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State University.
Simmons told reporters that Mississippi’s 3,000-plus deficient bridges needed to be fixed. “If we don’t take care of those bridges, they could look at adjusting our federal funding,” he said.