Bridge inspections loom

Paying to fix bridges is kind of like paying for a new roof: It’s a lot of money, is not exciting at all and doesn’t improve your business or home value one cent. Because of those reasons, both things tend to get pushed back as we all battle more pressing expenses.

Yet if you put them off long enough, both will completely shut you down. A leaky roof will corrode the structure of your building, rendering it unusable if allowed to go on long enough. And if a bridge collapses, well that’s self-explanatory. There’s nothing more frustrating than a long detour caused because a bridge is out.

There is nowhere near enough funding to do all of the bridge maintenance that is needed statewide, and tough federal bridge inspections are looming. Wooden piling bridges, mostly built decades ago, often look fine on top, but underneath those structures, of which there are about 2,600 throughout the state, eventually there is going to be rot. And counties are completely responsible for those kind of bridges without federal or state help.

Here’s where we stand: State business leaders, led by the Mississippi Economic Council, have been sounding the alarm for several years that our state is not investing enough to keep up our infrastructure. No one looking at the issue objectively could dispute that. The gas tax does not generate enough money to keep up the roads and bridges we have, much less build anything new for future growth. The longer we put off the spending, the more it will cost us in the future. It has to be done sometime, like fixing a leaky roof.

Yet the MEC and others have gotten nowhere with the Republican leadership in Jackson, who are dead against any form of taxation. Also, the Legislature does not like the Mississippi Department of Transportation because it gets the money from the gas tax directly without having to come begging to the Legislature.

The increased inspections, and shutting some bridges down, will get people to start complaining to their legislators and thus motivate them to get something done. How that bill will play out remains unknown, but any plan proposed should include some money for roads and bridges directly for counties.

It’s needed and it will help generate support from the influential Mississippi Association of Supervisors.

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