Governor's Commission Reports Planning Progress, Including Moving The Tracks

They have plenty of great ideas for building South Mississippi, but now the challenge is how to implement those plans.

The Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal is about to move from the design phase to building mode.

But some critical issues must be settled before all that building can begin.

The governor's commission was charged with tackling lots of big issues, with a single assignment.

"Our task was to make plans, long range plans, to come back bigger and better," said Anthony Topazi, who's chairing the infrastructure committee.

Colorful plans and designs for new neighborhoods are the initial result, which leads to a critical question.

"How do you pay for all this stuff? What are the available sources? And once we go into implementation, how can we possibly marshal all of these?," said commission chairman, Jim Barksdale.

Some transportation ideas depend on relocating CSX railroad tracks to the north. That much-discussed proposal may be more than a possibility.

"A conceivable plan that could work. But a lot of things have to be decided. There's obviously monies that have to be provided. We're on an accelerated timeline to definitively answer that question. Because a lot of our plans hinge on that possibility," said Topazi.

That could clear the way for an East-West thoroughfare along the tracks, leaving Highway 90 more of a scenic drive.

Planners say there's another critical issue that could block the building of new neighborhoods. Sewer systems need updating.

"The fact is that until we get that problem solved, we can't build new developments close by or not so close by for low income and moderate income housing," said Barksdale.

Those directing the planning process are confident local leaders will do their part to move designs and decisions toward a new and improved South Mississippi.

"And we've spent an awful lot of time trying to capture the desires of the community. What do we want the coast and South Mississippi to be when we redevelop? Bigger and better," Topazi explained.