Money Woes for Mississippi Highway Program

Meridian, Miss. "More demands than money," said Department of Transportation Central District Commissioner, Dick Hall. He says that's his agency's big dilemma.

"Highway construction has gone up 300% in the last 20 years and our revenue is flat. So, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that, that just won't work. It just won't work!"

Hall says this reality is what is stalling completion of the last phase of work to four-lane Highway 19 North from Collinsville to Philadelphia.

"We have the right-of-way bought for the final phase," says Hall. "We're in the process of moving utilities. We need $50 million to finish that, and we don't have $50 million to do it! So, it's going to sit there until something falls out of the sky, or the Mississippi legislature takes some kind of action."

Despite a lack of overall money, Hall says the funds that are available will be used to do work on high priority roads such as Highway 493 which stretches in front of the new coal plant site.

"That's one that's going to have to rise to the priority list," says Hall. "Because of safety issues, we're going to have to do something. So, we're going to try to scrape up something. That's what we're working on now."

Because the plan is still in the works, Hall says at this time it's unknown exactly when work on Highway 493 will start, and how much it will cost.

In 2010 Mississippi highways ranked sixth in the nation and number one in the mid-south region. Because major work on four lane roads in Mississippi was last done in the mid to late 1980s, Hall says the number of highways in need of repairs is steadily growing.