Dave Dennis is the head of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce. When WLOX News talked with him about a new transportation study commissioned by his group, Dennis said, "The most important part of it is the fact that there is a very comprehensive study that shows there are very serious infrastructure deficiencies on the coast that need to be addressed."
Some projects like the widening of Cowan Lorraine Road are underway. But the study says Harrison County has almost a billion dollars worth of road and airport improvements that haven't started yet. How to possibly get those projects funded is a focal point of the report.
"It puts in front of people the opportunity to see what the basic costs, what the plusses and minuses of each of the different options are," Dennis said.
One of the transportation committee's recommendations was for Harrison County residents to consider a one cent sales tax. The committee think that could generate $300 million for critical road projects. But the tax can only be implemented if the state legislature allows residents to vote on the request. And in the past, that's been a hard sell.
Golf Pro Joel Gann believes, "As it relates to business, anything that helps the transportation of customers and tourists that are down here helps our industry."
Gann was part of a group I talked with about coast transportation needs. Also there was Charlie Wines. The Harrison County resident said, "We have to be able to get back and forth from place to place on the coast. And the only way to do that is to improve the road situation."
That's the ultimate goal of the Coast Chamber. It believes a new report on transportation improvement options will be the road map that removes the detours and roadblocks the coast now faces.
"If the public decides nothing needs to happen, then certainly that would probably be the option," Dennis said. "But it puts the costs in front of people so that you can see if you're going to go ahead and fund it, now it would be funded, or possible options for funding."
According to the chamber's transportation study, expanding the airport, improving mass transit, and adding a water taxi service all all options that must be explored. State lawmakers will receive a copy of the chamber's vision next week.