Roadblocks to progress

In 2002, lawmakers saw a need to direct new priorities for four-lane construction with the $3.6 billion Vision 21 program.

A Daily Journal examination of Mississippi highways shows:

– Vision 21 progress is spotty and a long way from completion.

– Highway construction funds are woefully inadequate.

– State leaders aren’t communicating very well for transportation plans.

At this rate, it will take more than a century and $7 billion to complete the 1,277 miles of roadways designated by Vision 21, says Bill Minor, north Mississippi’s elected commissioner of transportation.
MDOT and the three-member commission recently were criticized for not following state law, which mandates Vision 21 construction priorities based on statewide needs. A Jan. 30 report from the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee said the money instead was being divided among the six MDOT districts to fund their priorities.

“I think we got their attention,” said state Rep. Warner McBride, D-Courtland, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

MDOT’s executive director, Butch Brown, defended the spending plan as efficient, but soon after, the commission agreed to refocus on the statewide approach.

Gov. Haley Barbour also is critical of highway progress, saying the state’s economic developer, the Mississippi Development Authority, isn’t consulted by MDOT and gets involved only as projects need transportation help.

“We’ve tried to stay in touch with MDOT,” Barbour said in an interview last week in his Sillers Building conference room.

NE MS Daily Journal