April 1, 2010 11:12:00 AM
In thanking the Mississippi Department of Transportation during a Wednesday press conference for recent road funding, Columbus Lowndes Development Link executive director Joe Higgins pointed out that rural Mississippi''s road needs were once "farm-to-market" roads -- something good enough for farmers to take their goods to town to sell.
Lowndes County''s needs have changed over the years, certainly outpacing other rural Mississippi areas. We have our share of agriculture, to be certain, but in the 21st century we''re also hauling steel, helicopter parts, timber and, when Paccar comes online, truck engines, to name a few things flowing to and from our diversified industrial areas.
Others at Wednesday''s thank-you session pointed out that MDOT''s influence goes beyond asphalt. The agency funds amenities that directly influence quality of life -- most recently a $2 million grant to overhaul the old Highway 182 bridge spanning the entrance to the Riverwalk into a pedestrian walkway. Some officials touted the smaller things we may not even think about -- landscaping along roadways and in medians; the fountain at the main entrance to Columbus Air Force Base; the relocation of the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center on Main Street -- all projects that received MDOT funding.
Projects either under way or coming in the near future that we can thank MDOT for include the repaving of Highway 182 (including Main and Alabama streets through Columbus) from Plymouth Road to the Alabama state line; the ongoing rebuilding of Military Road (federal funds distributed by MDOT); and various other paving projects.
Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders warned we shouldn''t thank MDOT too loudly for funneling projects to the area. He and State Sen. Terry Brown jokingly warned we may be getting more than our fair share, and other counties might take notice.
We believe Columbus and Lowndes County are a driving force behind Mississippi''s economy, and MDOT''s investing our tax dollars into our local infrastructure is only wise, and expected. Still, at the risk of crowing too loudly, we, too, would like to add our voice to those thanking MDOT for work that often goes unnoticed -- and to our city and county leaders, who have been diligent in securing our fair share.