MDOT: More funds for roads needed

By Staff
Jan. 2, 2001
JACKSON (AP) Mississippi transportation officials are hoping to receive more legislative funding for road maintenance, but lawmakers made few promises as they prepared for Tuesday's start of the 2001 legislative session.
James Kopf, deputy executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said legislators have been informed that $260 million spread out over several years would bring the state's roads up to par.
Legislators do not appear ready to approve additional funding.
House Ways and Means Chairman Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, who is also a member of a House study committee examining MDOT's management practices, said lawmakers want to see what MDOT is doing with its current money before they even look at increasing funding.
Last week, a legislative watchdog committee released a report that said MDOT's mismanagement of two statewide road projects has resulted in needless delays and massive cost overruns. According to the Performance and Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee report, MDOT hasn't made maintenance a high priority when making decisions on use of resources.
Of a $100 million total maintenance budget for fiscal 2001, MDOT has budgeted $21.6 million in pavement projects.
The remainder of the maintenance money will be spent on items such as mowing, providing security at welcome stations and rest stops and performing maintenance on MDOT buildings.
They could have done a better job of using that maintenance money on maintenance,'' said Senate Highways and Transportation Chairman Bob Dearing, D-Natchez.
Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said the department is working hard to make some improvements.
Northern District Transportation Commissioner Zack said lawmakers know their options.
Either they do nothing, or they can come up with money to maintain roads or cut back on construction,'' Stewart said. It's up to them to make those kinds of decisions.''