Transportation funds needed, but money must be spent wisely

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Hurricane Katrina has impacted the Mississippi Department ofTransportation’s pocketbook to the tune of around $700 million,which is the amount agency leaders say is needed soon to continuerecovery efforts.

Transportation leaders and state officials are rightly concernedabout passage of federal legislation to reimburse the state formoney spent so far and for additional road and bridge work. A $20million appropriation was approved last week for the state.

That money and more is needed as the state continues itsrecovery following the natural disaster. However, transportationleaders must become conscientious about spending once coffers arerestored.

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Highway officials’ cries of “no money” – which were heard evenbefore the hurricane came ashore – fall on deaf ears when we seebrand new MDOT trucks, decked out with chrome plating and stripes,traveling the streets of the city like we have in recent weeks.

Also on the list of questionable spending are millions ofdollars for renovations to MDOT offices like those in Jackson andMcComb and the agency’s helicopter for fuel barge law enforcementefforts. And making decisions at special meetings in Puerto Ricodoesn’t add to public confidence, either.

Hurricane Katrina has served as a wake-up call for everyone inthis state to be better prepared. We hope MDOT leaders are preparedto make wise decisions on transportation spending in thefuture.