<Washington— Senate and House Conferees, including Senator Trent Lott, Chairman of the Senate’s Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee, are filing a multi-year highway bill that promotes higher safety standards, includes millions of dollars for transportation improvements in Mississippi, and increases the state’s gasoline tax reimbursement dramatically from 90.5 percent to almost 96 percent. The action completes a three-year effort to produce a comprehensive highway bill.
“The gas tax provisions will give our state much more money to reinvest in our state’s transportation system, instead of sitting in Washington,” Senator Lott said. “This continues a steady increase in our state’s gas tax reimbursement which began almost a decade ago.”
As Chairman of the Surface Transportation Committee, Senator Lott specifically authored the bill’s safety provisions, which include extensions of ongoing highway and transportation safety programs, and new incentive grants designed to encourage states to enact and/or better enforce highway safety initiatives.
This includes incentives to bolster seat belt safety, enact new vehicle rollover standards, promote truck safety, enhance hazardous materials shipment training, prevent impaired driving, protect consumers from moving scams, and to promote boating safety and sportfish restoration.
“Better highways save lives and bring better jobs,” Senator Lott added. “Ever since my father was killed on a narrow two-lane road, I’ve worked to enhance our nation’s roads, and Mississippi has led the way in many respects with aggressive road improvement programs, bridge replacement and road construction projects. But, we have a lot more work to do, and this bill is going to help us do it for years to come. I’m particularly pleased that as conferees we have successfully added funds for a number of high-priority Mississippi projects.”
These projects include:
Some Mississippi Projects Funded
I-55 in DeSoto County: ($28.24Million ) — widening of I-55 from Highway 304 in DeSoto County to TN state line.
US 49 from South of Florence to I-20:( $26.4M) — funds requested for widening US 49, adding turn lanes, widening shoulders/bridges, and upgrading intersections. Funding requested will complete the project.
Old Fannin Road: ($6.4M )— will improve Old Fannin Rd from the north end of Flowood's 5-lane facility and extend to the intersection with Spillway Rd. New facility would be 5 lanes. Requested funding will complete the project.
Highway 57: ($37M)— to Widen Highway 57 from I-10 north through Vancleave.
Airport Parkway/Pearl River Bridge: ($8.9) — Funds requested for purchase of right of way & construction of west segment of a 4-lane highway between I-55 & Highway 475 at Jackson Int'l Airport, with connector to Highway 25.
West Rankin Intermodal Connector: (10M) — part of the total Metro Jackson railroad relocation project. Provides connnector to Kansas City Southern’s High Oak Intermodal Yard between Pearl and Richland. Route will connect I-20 to US 49.
Highway 78: ($8M) Upgrade to Interstate standards from the MS-TN state line to the MS-AL state line.
Canal Road Intermodal Connector” ($70M) — will provide a fully-controlled access connector between US 90 at the Port of Gulfport and I-10 near Canal Rd. Project will connect port, airport, rail, and interstate.
Safety Provisions/Incentive Grant Programs
* Seat Belt Safety Provisions — Will grant money under a new Occupant Protection Incentive Grants Program to states enacting new primary seat belt laws, as well as those which already have a primary seat belt law.
* Vehicle Rollovers — Requires the Department of Transportation to issue a comprehensive set of rules to reduce death and injury caused by passenger vehicles rollovers, using new technologies to reduce passenger ejections and better protect passengers remaining in the vehicle.
* Impaired Driving — Reauthorizes the Impaired Driving Program at an average annual funding level of $132 million for FY 2006 trough 2009. States can qualify for grants by enacting four out of seven specific criteria.
* Truck Safety — Reauthorizes existing truck safety initiatives and more than doubles the amount of truck safety funding available to states, providing up to $200 million of formula-distributed funds. Additionally, the bill improves the commercial drivers license (CDL) systems establishing a medical review board to recommend physical examination standards for commercial drivers.
* Hazardous Material Shipment — Reauthorizes existing hazardous material shipment programs, significantly enhancing the federal support of hazardous materials shipment training and planning grants.
* Household Goods Transport — The bill provides new protects for consumers entrusting their goods to household moving companies. Additionally the legislation allows states attorneys general and other state authorities to enforce federal laws and regulations with respect to household goods transported as interstate commerce.
* Boating Safety and Sportfish restoration — Senator Lott is a strong supporter of this “user pay, user benefit initiative” which seeks to reinvest taxes paid by boaters and fishermen into boating safety programs and sportfish restoration. The bill increases the federal match for boating safety grants.