State Lawmakers To Consider Allowing Toll Roads

Some future road and bridge projects in Mississippi could include something seldom seen in this state. Toll booths.

State lawmakers are considering a bill to allow toll roads as an additional funding source. But the idea gets mixed reviews from local drivers and the highway commissioner.

Increasing traffic congestion continues to clog busy highways in South Mississippi. There's simply not enough money to pay for the number of new roads needed. And that's why some are touting toll roads as a viable alternative.

Not many drivers support the idea.  At least not the ones WLOX News questioned.

"I don't see where it would be that beneficial. Seems to me like with all the revenue generated from the casinos and all here that our highway funding and road funding should be covered," said one man.

Another was willing to give it a try.

"Well, I think it would help. Anything will help," he suggested.

One woman told us that tax money should build roads.

"Not a good idea. For one thing, the federal government should pay for it," she reasoned.

One driver said the location of the toll roads is the main concern.

"I'd hate to see one on my route to work. But I would see it in locations where it would be just related to just casino activity. You could raise money from tourists," he said.

Southern District Transportation Commissioner, Wayne Brown, says toll roads would provide a funding alternative to build some much needed roads. But Brown says the toll roads should be used in a limited manner. He says any proposed toll road project must have a high traffic count and there must be an alternative route to the toll road.

Brown told WLOX News the Gulfport and Biloxi connector roads would both qualify for toll road status.

"Making those roads a toll would allow us to move up the schedule on those projects," he said.

Most drivers would no doubt welcome getting new roads built more quickly. But many have their doubts about paying tolls.

State lawmakers considered the idea last year. The Senate okayed the toll road bill, but it died in the House.

Toll roads are not altogether new to Mississippi. Old timers will recall there were once toll booths on the Bay Bridge in Bay St. Louis. The Mississippi River bridge in Vicksburg was also a toll bridge during the 1950s and 60s.