Crawdaddy

Something’s missing from Trump’s infrastructure plan

There will always be highways in need of repair.
There will always be highways in need of repair. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Mississippi didn’t make the first cut as the Trump administration works on a $1 trillion infrastructure program, but Gov. Phil Bryant isn’t worried.

“It’s important to note that Gov. Bryant, since the Trump administration has made one of its immediate priorities rebuilding and upgrading America’s infrastructure, would be in favor of waiting until that plan is finalized before the state took any action,” Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said.

McClatchy newspapers obtained draft copies of a couple of documents that list 50 infrastructure projects that would cost about $137.5 billion. One document, titled Emergency & National Security Projects, indicates those projects would require a 50 percent private investment. They include interstate repairs in North Carolina; locks and dams on the Ohio River; Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure; ship-channel dredging in south Louisiana; and a $3 billion rainwater-drainage system for Lake Erie at Cleveland. Nothing for Mississippi.

Bryant already had written Elaine Chao, Trump’s pick for transportation secretary, pitching Mississippi’s needs.

“Mississippi is uniquely situated to be a transportation crossroads for highways and railroads for the southeast, connecting the region to the nation and the world, while also serving as a hub for water commerce with key ports on the Mississippi River, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, and the Gulf of Mexico,” he wrote. “Mississippi is also a prime example of rural commerce where commodities, like food, timber and energy move through a network of county and state roads to connect small and large producers to the nation and world.

“A viable transportation system in both or rural and urban areas is the cornerstone of Mississippi’s growing economy and the key element to our creating a sustainable, diverse economy.”

He also invited Chao to the state to “see for yourself how Mississippi can lead the way for rural America and the world and experience our renowned hospitality.”

The Mississippi Economic Council and others for two years have been urging the Legislature to add at least $375 million to the budget to repair the state’s roads and bridges. In the last session, opposition to tax increases to pay for the repairs scuttled those plans. The Port of Gulfport has for years been trying to get the federal government to deepen its ship channel and officials along the northern Gulf have been trying to get a new Amtrak route from Baton Rouge to Mobile and beyond.

The McClatchy report said the National Governors Association asked governors’ offices last month for input on a preliminary list of projects from the Trump team. Elaine Waskey, spokeswoman for the association, said there are more than 300 projects on its list.

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton

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