Thursday, March 31, 2011
New commissioner wants strong bond between MDOT, MDA
By SUE WATSON
Newly-elected transportation commissioner Mike Tagert said a big role of transportation is to spur economic growth in small communities like Holly Springs.
At five weeks on the job, Tagert presented his campaign views and discussed how he sees his role as transportation commissioner of the northern district with Holly Springs Rotarians.
Coming into the commissioner’s role from the economic development sector, Tagert said transportation matters and assists private investment in creating jobs.
“So, I am truly interested in economic development and the transportation niche it requires,” he said. “This is important.”
Sharing personal information, Tagert said he and his wife are on the same page as far as his family and the job are concerned.
“She has veto power,” he said. “We both do. We both want to live life with no regrets. I want to play a role in transportation.”
They are parents to two small children and have tried to shield them as much as possible from politics as he ran for the job to replace the late commissioner Bill Minor, a large pair of shoes to fill.
Tagert sees his role as commissioner is to help smaller communities prepare to be larger communities. Lots of small communities have lost out on opportunities for economic development because they lacked a rail spur or highway accessibility, he said. Most communities do not even know when a company is taking a look at them and are not aware they have missed an opportunity, he said. Opening transportation corridors to small communities is what the Mississippi Department of Transportation should be doing, he said.
Mississippi’s 1987 Four Lane highway bill has helped attract lots of industries to the state, he said. Now Mississippi needs to plow on with Vision 21, the commissioner said. Vision 21 is MDOT’s proposal to prioritize phase IV of the 1987 Four Lane Highway Program for the 21st Century. It addresses immediate, mid-range and long-range highway construction and improvement needs. That would include a close relationship with the Mississippi Development Authority and MDOT.
“That puts us all – MDOT and MDA – on the same page to improve job creation and economic development, Tagert said.
Highway safety is another important role MDOT plays in the state. The three-cable barrier under construction along U.S. 78 is a project to reduce accidental median crossings and head-on collisions. Highway maintenance is another function of MDOT.
Every new road adds to the future maintenance cost MDOT bears in the state, he said. The agency maintains 30,000 lane-miles in Mississippi.
Transportation and logistics represents 50,000 jobs and as such is an economic driver in the state, Tagert said.
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