White says that MDOT faces staffing, funding challenges.

On Monday, Brad White, Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director, spoke at the Stennis Capitol Press Forum. White discussed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and updated attendees on the status of MDOT.

White said that the thing that helped MDOT tremendously was the Legislature recognizing the need for further investment in Mississippi’s transportation system over the last couple of years. Programs such as the Emergency Road and Bridge program and the Lottery Fund have helped communities across the state as well as the Department.

President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law in November 2021. The legislation provided a historic investment in the country’s infrastructure priorities: roads and bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, the electric grid, water systems, and broadband.

White said that he was concerned due to the awarding of many economic stimulus packages, relating to COVID-19, in the last couple of years that people believe that it was purely an economic stimulus package.

The Executive Director said that this was not just a “windfall” of money, but instead the funds do come with strings attached and MDOT does have to follow the federal guidelines. However, it will help to narrow the Department’s funding gap and meet the needs around the state.

Executive Director White also discussed the two main issues that MDOT faces today: staffing and funding.

“The needs that we have around the state exceed the amount of revenue we have in order to adequately address them,” White told Y’all Politics following the forum.

Executive Director White said that thanks to legislative action and the federal infrastructure bill that was passed, that gap MDOT experienced has narrowed considerably.

“Funding is still an issue because we have a lot of needs, but we have made a lot of headway in that,” White said.

White stated that the primary issue now for the agency is being able to recruit and retain a workforce to carry out the projects to completion. Earlier in the forum, he said that the staffing issue is reaching a “crisis” point.

White said that the Commission will be presented tomorrow with MDOT’s three-year plan where staff will be making recommendations on how to move forward and what projects the state needs to invest in.

The Director said the three-year plan will “indicate to the Legislature the direction that we as the Department of Transportation plan to go and building capacity projects and taking care of the taxpayers’ existing investment in the State.”

“I’m very hopeful that it will meet the criteria and show an honest example or illustration of what we’ll be doing that will be in the best interest of the State,” White said.