Officials taking concerns to Washington

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

Several officials representing Lincoln County will be inWashington, D.C., next week to encourage federal assistance for thecounty’s road and bridge dilemma.

“We’re in trouble here, and the trouble is money,” said LincolnCounty Board of Supervisors President Bobby J. Watts. “So, we’regoing to Washington to see what we can do. We need to get money forthe county for roads and bridges.”

Watts will be visiting Washington with Chancery Clerk TillmonBishop and County Engineer Carl Ray Furr.

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The trio have planned meetings with Senators Trent Lott and ThadCochran and U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, and have hopes of visitingothers, Watts said.

“The last time we went to Washington we did good, so I’mhopeful,” Watts said of his trip two years ago.

The county has well-maintained and managed mass transportationroads, such as the interstate and highways, Watts said. But thesmall and well-traveled farm-to-market roads are in dire shape.

“The road beds are good, but the roads themselves are worn out,”Watts said.

The county can afford to do most of the routine repairs on thoseroads, but it is the massive expense of paving and overlaying theroads that it cannot afford, he said. Watts said it costs $50,000per mile to repave a county road.

“The county can’t do it alone,” he said. “We just don’t have thefunds. We need some help from Washington.”

County roads are damaged by continual use, weather and heavyhaulers, such as log trucks and eighteen-wheelers hauling chickensand other commodities, Watts said. Many of the road repairs arebeing made because of taxes paid by those heavy haulers,however.

“So we can’t fuss at them,” Watts said.

Watts said he expects Lott to stand firmly with them.

Lott is currently driving a bill for passage that wouldsignificantly increase the amount of funding for state and localtransportation needs. That bill, formally named the Safe,Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of2004 (SAFETEA), would provide a six-year extension to theTransportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

In the past six years, TEA-21 has provided $2.3 billion for thestate’s roads.

“He’s been saying the right words for us,” Watts said.

Bridges are another major, and pricey, concern, Watts said.

On Tuesday, the board received bad preliminary report from thestate bridge inspector after he completed his annual bridgeinspection. An official written report is expected in about threeweeks.