WASHINGTON, D.C.–Getting where you need to go can be difficult at times in Mississippi, with bad roads and a lack of public transportation. But a bill in the U.S. Senate that would give local governments more control over federal transportation money, is getting some legs with endorsements by several Mississippi cities and groups.
The bill is called the Innovation in Surface Transportation Act, and was introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
The bill would also give local officials more control over the transportation planning process in their states and communities.
“Local officials are faced with immense transportation infrastructure challenges but often lack the resources to pay for these improvements,” said Wicker. “This measure would enable communities to have a say in which projects merit attention and would direct federal dollars to meet those needs. Targeted, cost-effective solutions are key to modernizing this country’s infrastructure. The Wicker-Booker bill should be included in any long-term transportation plan.”
Currently, less than 15 percent of all authorized federal highway funds and only one grant program are available to cities and counties. The grant program is overwhelmed with requests, said Wicker.
To combat this problem, the Wicker-Booker bill would allow local jurisdictions to compete for a larger share of federal funds on a competitive basis. Local jurisdictions, metropolitan planning organizations, transit providers, and others would be in charge of developing projects for consideration. Instead of federal bureaucrats making the decisions, a panel of local stakeholders would decide which projects to approve based on how the project could improve the transportation system, promote innovation, and spur economic development.
The bill was brought up in the last Congress, but did not make it.
Below is a list of Mississippi entities and national stakeholders that have endorsed the legislation:
- City of Hattiesburg
- Town of Sumrall
- City of Laurel
- City of Wiggins
- Town of Flora
- City of Pascagoula
- City of Corinth
- City of Greenwood
- City of McComb
- City of Morton
- City of Carthage
- City of Morton
- City of Meridian
- Mississippi Municipal League
- Hinds County Board of Supervisors
- Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership
- League of American Bicyclists