The Sun-Herald's Anita Lee continues to school journalists in Mississippi. She busted a big-time boondoggle that took place on the coast. Wrap your head around this opening sentence: "The state of Mississippi has spent $158.5 million on a road that does not exist." Ms. Lee waded through the weeds and provided more horrifying details:
State and county leaders began planning 22 years ago for a road to connect Interstate 10 and the state Port of Gulfport. The Mississippi Department of Transportation started spending money on the project 20 years ago after the Legislature charged the agency with the task of building the road.
The road became a vital component of port plans to dramatically increase container cargo through a $570 million expansion the federal government funded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The port's plans have changed, though. No new container-cargo tenants have signed on for the expanded port, which should be finished in 2017.
Plans for the road wound up in federal and state courts. MDOT lost. The agency is now back at square one with environmental permitting that could take years.
State budget woes also have left MDOT and other agencies with less money. The port connector will be competing with projects statewide for funding.
"We've kind of become a maintenance organization," said Mark McConnell, MDOT's chief engineer. "We're trying to preserve what we have — our bridges and our pavement. Any kind of new construction is difficult to find the funding for."
The money MDOT has spent on the connector road covered preliminary engineering, rights of way purchases from private property owners, utility relocation and land clearing.
McConnell estimates the state will need an additional $215 million to build the road, with only $10 million of that remaining from a previous bond issue. The state also has authority to borrow an additional $125 million for the project, leaving an unfunded balance of $80 million. McConnell stressed the cost could change because estimates would have to be updated. Rest of the article. There is much more reported in this story.
You can't make this up.
Kingfish note: Speaking of reporters, have any of them bothered to report the findings of the MDE audit of Jackson Public Schools?