The Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund has already distributed $208.4 million since it began in 2018.
The ERBRF's advisory committee held a meeting Monday to discuss the status of the fund and the projects being covered by those funds.
According to Jeff Ely, the assistant chief engineer at the Mississippi Department of Transportation, there has been $159.5 million distributed to cities and counties for construction on emergency repairs and replacement of bridges and roads and $12 million distributed for preconstruction activities.
The amount of money that the advisory committee administers is considerable. The Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2018 authorized $300 million in borrowing, with $250 million for MDOT and $50 million for local infrastructure not administered by that agency.
The priority, according to the legislation is first safety, then commerce. The deadline for cities and counties to apply for this round of ERBRF funds is August 6 at 5 p.m. The projects will be approved in October.
Also lawmakers this session authorized $89 million from $1.25 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March by Congress to be transferred to the road and bridge fund.
Ely also told the advisory committee that the ERBRF was very close to hitting the 85 percent requirement of the disbursement of CARES Act funds required by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The deadline is January 2023, with only $4 million short of the goal.
The MDOT engineer also said there have been 101 bridges repaired or replaced using ERBRF funds, with 78 of those already complete.
According to MDOT, there are 227 bridges statewide that are either posted with a weight limit due to damage or functional obsolescence or closed.
Two projects were withdrawn: One in George County (Salem Road) and another in Wayne County and nearly $1 million will go back into the fund from those canceled projects. The average bid for a project funded by the bond issue is $1.6 million, with 42 different contractors building projects administered by the advisory committee.
Ely told the committee that there will be $10 million left from the initial program, which he said could be used on additional projects or rolled into the next set of projects.
In addition to the borrowing, the law transferred 35 percent of the state’s use tax revenues to cities and counties to assist with infrastructure needs. The use tax is a 7 percent levy assessed on out-of-state purchases, including ones done through e-commerce.
The state collected more than $694 million in use tax revenue after collecting $480 million in fiscal 2020. The state Department of Revenue transferred $27.5 million into the Local Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Fund in fiscal 2021, which ended on June 30. Last year, the DOR distributed only $5.4 million from use tax revenues to the bridge fund.
County governments are responsible for 50,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, which represent the majority of the state’s roads and bridges.
The most expensive projects in the 2020 project list include:
- $16.3 million for Interstate 20.
- $15.2 million for east Hardy Street in Hattiesburg.
- $11.8 million and $2.52 million for Wade-Vancleave Road in Jackson County.
- $7.8 million for U.S. 51.
- $7.3 million for Graysport Crossing Road in Grenada County.