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Out of the mud: Rural roads could get new attention

By Staff
ROAD PROPOSALS n Charlie Mathis, Lauderdale County road foreman for Satellite B in the northwest corner of District 3, looks over a map of the county's 900 miles of roads. Residents could benefit from a bill allowing supervisors to use up to 25 percent of their State Aid funding on non-State Aid roads. Photo by Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
March 26, 2001
A bill allowing county officials to pave more rural roads is awaiting action from Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, perhaps as early as today.
As passed by the Legislature, the bill would allow county officials to pave, construct and upgrade rural non-State Aid roads with up to 25 percent of their State Aid funds.
Sen. Gloria Williamson, D-Philadelphia, said the bill, Senate Bill 2318, is "probably the best piece of legislation we've passed."
The bill would establish a local system road program, letting county State Aid engineers and boards of supervisors determine which local roads roads with a daily traffic count of 400 or below they want to upgrade with state aid funds.
She said officials at the Office of the State Aid Road Division, a branch of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, would establish guidelines for county officials.
Floyd Kirk, state aid engineer and executive director of the Office of the State Aid Road Division, said the guidelines would be drawn from those set by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
Kirk said there are 53,000 total miles of roads statewide, and 18,000 of those are on the state aid road system, leaving some 35,000 miles of roads currently ineligible for state aid funds.
Williamson said the bill won't affect roads currently on the state aid road system, and county officials can opt to spend a portion, all or none of their 25 percent on non-state aid roads.
Kirk said if a road's daily traffic count exceeds 400 and supervisors decide to upgrade it, the upgrade must meet "collector" road standards, meaning roads must connect communities to each other, to towns or to the state highway system, he said.
Joel Yelverton, assistant executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, said the bill would also allow bridge funds to be used on rural roads once all the county's bridges meet minimum federal standards.
Williamson said she plans this summer to work toward getting additional funds for rural roads.
If the bill is signed by the governor, it will take effect July 1.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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