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Infrastructure: Act now, or pay later

It is no secret that Mississippi’s roads and bridges need to be repaired.

But according to senate transportation committee chairman Willie Simmons and house transportation committee chairman Charles Busby, the time to act is now.

“We need $350 million annually to repair and maintain the roadways,” said Sen. Simmons. “And if we don’t act now, that number is going to go up.”

“I think the most frustrating thing is that our citizens are already paying more now daily for insurance rate increases and repairs than what it would take to fix the roads,” said Rep. Busby. “We continue to take those dollars out of their pocket… but get no benefit out of it.”

Rep. Busby said that the conservative thing to do is to improve upon and reserve the roadway system.

The two said they have worked with lawmakers daily to take up the issue, but many bills to improve infrastructure don’t get enough backing to leave committee.

The chairmen said the economic impact of poor infrastructure is immeasurable.

“I’ve had a major manufacturer, in the northeast part of the state, tell me that it is easier for them to ship out of the port of Houston, because they can’t cross the bridges and roads to ship from Gulfport or Pascagoula,” said Busby.

“We’re inviting people to the Capital City for the bicentennial, and the roads are embarrassing,” said Simmons. “But this stretches beyond Jackson. If we don’t take care of our state roads and bridges and what we have, we will not only not attract new business but we’ll also lose the businesses that normally come here.”

The Chairmen agreed that now is the time for the legislature to find a way to generate revenue for infrastructure.

“We need new money,” said Simmons. “Right now we need $350 million annually, but that could double if something isn’t done.”

“The time to act was 10 years ago,” said Busby. “It’s time for the citizens to get involved.”

Sen. Simmons said that if action isn’t taken now, the issue would be delayed, possibly for years.

“The can will continue to get kicked down the road,” said Simmons. “If they don’t take it up now.. next year is a pre-election year, 2019 is an election year.. so we’re talking 2020, and that’s too long.”

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