Earlier this year, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) had to close nearly 500 bridges to ensure the safety of the traveling public and another 1,742 were posted with specific weight limits due to structural deficiency. In addition, 28% of Mississippi’s roads are in poor condition, 12.30% of bridges are structurally deficient, and the condition of the roads costs motorists $705 per year from driving on roads in need of repair. To address these issues, which were a result of inadequate funding, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant called for a special legislative session late last week, four months after the regular session adjourned.
Out of this special session came the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act. This bipartisan solution passed with a vote of 108-5 and was signed by Governor Bryant.
The bill is funded through a combination of a 7% internet sales tax collection, sports betting revenue, bonds, and adding a fee on hybrid and electric vehicles. The newly generated revenue will be allocated as follows:
- 35% of the internet and out-of-state sales taxes will be directed to local governments. The tax will be divided among localities – 15% to cities – 15% to counties – and 5% will be allocated to the Local System Bridge Program. Counties will be required to match the state money dollar for dollar.
- Of the $300 million funding infusion, $250 million will be directed to the Mississippi Department of Transportation for emergency projects and $50 million to be spent on transportation projects deemed necessary by the legislature.
- The first $80 million of newly collected state lottery revenue will be dedicated to the State Highway Fund for 10 years. The money is to be used with matching federal funds when available.
While the bridge closures earlier this year were a catalysts, the need to increase investment in Mississippi infrastructure has long been advocated for by ASCE, including through a 2012 Mississippi Infrastructure Report Card, which gave the state an overall grade of ‘C-,’ and the Mississippi Economic Council, which named infrastructure development one of the nine priority goals for economic growth in the state. By passing this legislation, the Mississippi legislature made infrastructure improvements in their state a priority and put the state on a better path for the future.