JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - A Senate committee is once again considering a gas tax as a way to get more money for roads and bridges statewide. They learned more about the needs in a set of meetings this week. Mississippi's wooden bridges are in jeopardy of closing if they haven't already.
"One bridge with one life lost as a result of failure is a tragedy and one we want to avoid," noted Senator Willie Simmons, chairman of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee.
In the midst of conversations, MDOT's executive director explained why the feds have stepped in to examine local bridges.
"These county engineers are not able to get these bridges shut," explained MDOT executive director Melinda McGrath. "And these bridges are dangerous to the safety of the traveling public of Mississippi."
She noted that some counties with deficient bridges had been keeping them open because they had made plans for a new bridge.
"I'm just going to be honest, I don't understand that logic," added McGrath.
Counties were given the chance to report the safety of their timber bridges. Their report that 114 out of 120 were safe, was later questioned by the feds. After a re-inspection, they fully closed 72 of those.
If counties don't follow the action plan that's been drawn up, MDOT could be in jeopardy of getting $500 million in federal dollars sanctioned. But keep in mind, counties didn't get any new dollars from the state this year. So, they're already strapped for infrastructure dollars.
"It creates a problem under normal circumstances and that problem is compounded with the federal government coming in to do an inspection and saying we're going to close more of your bridges," said Senator Simmons.