Thursday, August 4, 2005

Highway bill approved

A transportation bill containing funds for major highway projects in north Mississippi passed the U.S. House of Representatives Friday, Rep. Roger Wicker said. The Senate also OK’d the measure July 29 and sent it to the White House to be signed into law.

The bill provides $286.4 billion for highways, public transportation and safety programs across the nation, including Marshall County.

Wicker said the six year authorization will aid the state’s economy and make travel safer all across Mississippi. The comprehensive package includes improvements to reduce fatalities, ease congestion, and promote economic development. The bill also allocates money from the Highway Trust Fund to the 50 states for existing projects and new transportation initiatives.

He said he hopes to secure additional funding for these projects through the regular appropriations process.

“Improving our transportation system will save lives and help move goods and services more efficiently,” Rep. Wicker said. “These efforts will also boost economic development, create jobs, and make travel more convenient in Mississippi and across the nation.”

Senator Thad Cochran said, “I am pleased the Senate has passed this much-needed Highway bill. I have worked closley with the entire Mississippi Congressional delegation to ensure that our transportation needs received fair consideration.”

North Mississippi projects include:

  • $5 million for work on Star Landing Road in DeSoto County. The work involves construction of six miles of roadway at the new Interstate 55 interchange connecting Getwell Road to the east and Tulane Road to the west.
  • $28.2 million to continue widening Interstate 55 in DeSoto County.
  • $105 million for work on sections of Interstate 69 in Mississippi, as well as a share of $50 million to be spread over seven states in the region. The highway that will connect Canada to Mexico through the heartland of America will run through Marshall and DeSoto Counties.

    “I am pleased we could include funding to advance our efforts to complete Interstate 69,” Rep. Wicker said. “The roadway will help make travel safer and create countless economic development opportunities all along the route through Mississippi,” Rep. Wicker said.

  • $21 million for upgrades along U.S. Highway 78 to help bring the roadway to interstate standards. The highway was designated as future Interstate 22 in legislation passed in 2003 and will officially become I-22 when it is linked to Interstate 65 in Alabama. Improvements include widening shoulders and exits in some areas, installing medians and fencing.
  • $2.4 million for construction on Highway 45 Bypass in Columbus. The work would ease congestion along a 6.9 mile stretch that currently handles 27,000 vehicles per day, and that number is projected to rise to 42,000 by 2020. The funding is in addition to $992,000 for the project in the 2005 omnibus appropriations bill enacted in November.
  • $2.4 million to continue four-laning Highway 6 between Pontotoc and Tupelo. When completed, the project will provide an important four-lane link from Batesville to Tupelo to the Alabama state line. The project will get an additional $5.1 million for each year of the authorization period from funds in the bill for the Appalachian Developmental Highway Program.

This bill marks the first full reauthorization of Highway programs since the last bill expired in September 2003. Mississippi will also benefit from a new formula for federal funding. Under current law Mississippi receives a 90.5 percent rate of return on payments made to the Highway Trust Fund, while the new bill provides 95 percent.

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