King seeks transportation panel position

Published 7:18 pm Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A state senator who’s spent most of his elected career dealingwith transportation matters is seeking Lincoln County’s vote tohelp him attain one the state’s most important transportationoffices.

Senate Highways and Transportation Committee Chairman Tom King,R-Petal, is running for transportation commissioner in the state’ssouthern district, a 27-county area that includes Lincoln Countyand some major highways and port facilities. He’s leaning on anearly 20-year background of handling transportation issues in theLegislature and advocating a partnership-style approach toinfrastructure, which he believes is critical for growingMississippi.

“I have a lot of background in transportation, I love it and I feellike our entire economic development future hinges on it,” Kingsaid during a Tuesday stop in Brookhaven. “When the Port ofGulfport is completed … and they bring those big ships in there,you’re looking at 15 Nissan (plants).”

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King said the Mississippi Department of Transportation has done a”great job” keeping the state’s highways and transportation systemsup-to-date, but as with anything else in life, there’s room forimprovement. He touted his own attempts to help usher in thatimprovement, most notably last year’s Senate Bill 3181, a bond billthat authorized more than $300 million for transportation projectsstatewide.

Part of the funding in the bond bill included $20 million for theOffice of State Aid Road Construction and $20 million for the LocalSystem Bridge Program – two programs that help counties keep uptheir small, rural roads and bridges.

“It really helps a lot of your rural counties,” King said. “Youhave to have good roads, I don’t care how small your townis.”

King said he would seek another $20 million for the stateassistance programs in 2011.

King also supported attempts by Adams and Franklin counties, andpossibly Lincoln County, to form a coalition to draw attention tothe 66-mile railroad track running from Natchez to Brookhaven,owned by Natchez Railway, LLC. Business on the line is poor andtariffs are high, prompting regional leaders to band together andlobby federal and state officials for help if the line were everput up for sale or scrapped.

“Numbers mean everything in the Legislature – network and tell yourlegislative delegation what to do,” King said. “Communication iswhat it’s all about. Communication, and partnerships with yourlocal officials.”

All in all, King is hoping his expertise in transportation issueswill win him the day in 2011. He served in the House from1993-1999, serving on the transportation committee. He was electedto the Senate in 2000, where he has chaired the transportation inthat chamber ever since.

“I feel like I can do a great job. My experience in the Legislatureon the committees of transportation for both houses has given mevast experience and knowledge,” King said.

Incumbent Southern District Transportation Commissioner WayneBrown, a Democrat, is not seek re-election to the post thisyear.