Mississippi road upgrades proposed

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Wednesday is expected to be the busiest travel day of the year. As many motorists prepare to hit the highway, some state officials in Mississippi say this draws attention to the need for major road improvements.

"They need to fix'em. There are potholes. You can't keep your car lined-up. I've been coming over here for about 15 years, and the roads are just bad," says Eskio Lake. He travels into Mississippi often from his home in Pennington, Alabama, but he's not the only driver who Newscenter 11 talked to who feels that road repairs are needed.

"I think in comparison to other states, I think that we're somewhere in the lower 50%," says Frank Polizzi of Meridian. "Also, I think that we have a lot of highways that could be four laned instead of two laned."

Making needed repairs to roads is high on the agenda for the Mississippi Economic Council.

"We're at a point where we're getting closer and closer to not being able to maintain it," says Scott Waller, who is the Chief Operating Officer for the MEC.

"Through the plan that we're recommending, it's strictly a recommendation for about $375,000,000 annually added to transportation. "I want to emphasize this, the money would be used only for road and bridge work," says Waller. "That's what the money would go for."

To raise the additional funds, during next year's session the MEC is set to present a plan to state legislators that would require motorists to pay roughly an extra $2 each week.

"Yes, it's going to cost a little more on the front end, but the return is so much greater, not only in economic opportunities, but for the individual citizens," says Waller. "They will see their cost go down in: less flat tires, less broken windshields and less getting their car aligned all the time because roads will be better. It will actually be a bigger return than what it is costing them today to do those things. This could happen if we pay just a little extra to do it."

Calling the return on investment good, Waller says information that was gathered in a study that's being used to help develop the MEC's proposal reveals that the plan would actually save motorists an extra $10 each week.

At a cost of $2 extra per week both Eskio Lake and Frank Polizzi says it's a price that's worth paying.

"It would hurt at first, but I think that I would. I would. I think good roads benefit everybody," says Polizzi.

Next month officials with the Mississippi Economic Council are set to announce specific details about the agency's plan that will be proposed to legislators next year.