Wayne H. Brown, the southern district commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), told a congressional committee recently that if federal aid does not come quickly, the state would have to choose between stopping work on regular highway maintenance projects and delaying critical repairs to the U.S. 90, the Mississippi Sun Herald reported.
According to the paper, Brown told the committee that the state needs federal reimbursement of funds it had moved from other critical projects to pay for hurricane cleanup. He said that the cleanup of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina will cost the state $695 million, $400 million of which would go to rebuilding two U.S. 90 bridges washed away by the storm.
According to Brown, the state transportation department was assured by the Federal Highway Administration that it would be quickly and fully reimbursed for the millions of dollars it moved from other projects to pay for the cleanup.
“This is not a time for government red tape,” Brown said. “[The Mississippi Department of Transportation] is up to the challenge before us, but we must be armed with resources and freed of unnecessary red tape and delay.”
Dick Hall, MDOT’s central district commissioner, asked for even more money to pay for repair and replacement of ports, railroads and other transportation structures damaged by the storm, the Sun Herald reported.
Hall discussed plans by the Governor’s Commission of Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, which has made recommendations on how best to rebuild the transportation infrastructure in Mississippi. The recommendations include moving port distribution centers farther inland and planning public transportation for the elderly, poor and handicap, the paper reported.
“We are not here to ask for vast amounts of money to build wild ideas pulled out of the air,” Hall said. “We are here to discuss building what makes sense.”
According to the Sun Herald, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Bay St. Louis) suggested to Hall that the state consider building a rail system of ferry to help people cross St. Louis Bay. He also suggested state officials install a marker on Hwy 603 to show how far the storm had pushed debris.