TANNEHILL: Senate bill benefits LOU transportation efforts

Published 11:49 am Wednesday, September 1, 2021

In a state with almost 6,000 miles of highway rated in poor condition, and more than 1,000 bridges also in poor condition, communities across the state of Mississippi are hopeful that help is on the way! U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker has long been a strong advocate for transportation infrastructure and its importance in driving economic development. He not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk by supporting and voting for the bipartisan infrastructure package knowing that it will indeed make Mississippi better.

Passage of the Senate version of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act produces numerous infrastructure investment opportunities of potential direct benefit to Mississippi and, in particular, to the Oxford-Lafayette County region.  Some of those most readily apparent are the increase of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) annual federal funding by approximately 50% annually or $200 million dollars and could provide $3.3 billion for Mississippi roadways and highways and $223 million to improve public transportation options over the life of the bill.

The City of Oxford, Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi adopted a joint LOU Transportation Plan in 2019 that allowed us to prioritize our transportation infrastructure needs and move forward with a unified voice in seeking state and federal funds.  Traditionally, federal infrastructure grant programs have been structured to benefit large cities. The Senate version of the Infrastructure and Job Act creates new and well-funded competitive grant opportunities for transportation infrastructure investment in addition to continued and elevated funding for the RAISE Grant Program which benefits county and city and other local units of government. As most federal grant programs require financial commitment from the applicant community thus eliminating many small communities from being at the table, Senator Wicker has previously introduced legislation that would provide financial flexibility for state and local governments seeking additional tools to help finance infrastructure projects while interest rates on bonds are at historic lows.

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In addition to transportation, the Senate bipartisan infrastructure bill provides extensive broadband funding to Mississippi, with a minimum $100 million to support the build out of rural Mississippi areas including Lafayette County to elevate the quality of life and economic viability of these areas.  Substantial, additional funding for public water supply and wastewater treatment for cities and other local units of government via numerous federal grant funding opportunities and increased funding for Mississippi’s drinking water and wastewater revolving funds is also included.

In Oxford, the benefit of the Oxford-University Transit public transportation system is a great help to our traffic issues and provides a service to those who need transportation across our community.  The OUT Bus carries more than one million riders from point A to point B each year eliminating that number of car trips from our roadways. The Senate version of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act would provide substantial, additional funding for transit such as our OUT Bus System.

Thank you, Senator Wicker, for your commitment to leaving it better than you found it.  Thank you for supporting and voting for this Bipartisan Infrastructure Package knowing that it will indeed make Mississippi better.

Robyn Tannehill is Mayor of Oxford. Contact her at robyn@oxfordms.com