Editorials

Dear Mississippi politicians, please stop fighting and fix our roads and bridges

Potholes created in part by this year’s heavy rains may pose a problem for westbound traffic on U.S. 90 near Seashore Oaks.
Potholes created in part by this year’s heavy rains may pose a problem for westbound traffic on U.S. 90 near Seashore Oaks. amccoy@sunherald.com

If political games solved transportation problems, we'd all be driving hover cars over a roadway of smooth air.

We're not. We're winding through bumps and potholes like a slalom champion and easing over bridges while hoping this is not the moment the wooden timbers supporting it give up the ghost.

Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency and ordered more than 100 bridges closed last week. A Mississippi Today reporter found there are 542 bridges closed in the state. Coincidentally, we're sure, earlier in the week the long-simmering spat between the state House and Senate began bubbling rapidly. Speaker Philip Gunn proposed lowering income taxes and raising fuel taxes to pay for a road and bridge program. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said no way.

And we're back to sitting on our hands and arguing over which is the "most conservative" plan to fix the roads.

Those bridges didn't fall apart overnight. The federal government pointed out the problem last year. Some officials say the problem is critical and requires immediate action. The staunchest critics argue the roads aren't that bad. The truth is undoubtedly somewhere in between.

Potholes are equally jarring for the liberal and the conservative, the just and the unjust.

Few Mississippians, if any, like new or increased taxes. But we have two clear choices. Mississippi can either raise more money to fix roads and bridges or it can have fewer roads and bridges.

The longer the state waits to start maintaining roads with thinning asphalt and bridge perched atop wooden beams, the higher the price tag will be. And those of us who must drive down the worst of these roads will pay at the repair shop.

The finger-pointing needs to stop. It is not a local problem. It is not a federal problem. It is not a Democratic problem nor a Republican problem. It is our state's problem.

We need leadership to get all the competing interests to the table and and answer a few simple questions. Are the roads and bridges in the state (whether they be city, county or state roads) falling apart? If they are, does the state bring in enough money to pay to repair and maintain them? If it doesn't, who pays?

Press releases will not fill potholes or shore up bridges. Effective leadership can.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.
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