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Records show Hinds County lags behind other counties in spending on bridges

Hinds County has spent, on average, only 6.45 percent of its budget on public works projects — which includes roads and bridges — since 2010, according to an examination of records by the Mississippi Independent.

Broken down to bridges specifically, the number gets even lower for the county, which has 34 closed bridges according to the latest data from the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction. Since 2010, the county has only spent 1.44 percent of its budget on bridge repair, construction and maintenance.

The county's annual budget is around $114 million, with $5.7 million spent on public works as a whole and $1.6 million on bridges and culverts.

Hinds County owns 401 bridges, with 132 of them eligible for assistance from state aid road funds.

Compare that with Jackson County on the coast, which has nearly half the population (139,668 vs. 242,891 for Hinds) and a larger land area (1,043 square miles vs. 877 for Hinds). Jackson County maintains less than half the number of bridges, 179, that Hinds County does and only four of them are closed.

Jackson County spends an average of 16.7 percent of its budget on its road department, which maintains the county's roads and bridges. Since 2016, the county has spent 2.3 percent of its budget on bridge repair and replacement. Jackson County does have a much larger tax base and thus a larger average budget. Since 2009, the county's budget is $132 million, with $22 million per year spent on the county's road department.

There are 10,783 locally-owned bridges in the state and 542 are listed by the Office of State Aid Road Construction as closed, with 1,727 posted with weight restrictions.

Gov. Phil Bryant has discussed calling a special session this summer to address infrastructure funding if the House and Senate leadership can come to a deal on a plan.

Bryant already signed a bond bill into law that would authorize $50 million to help repair and replace substandard bridges and the state Bond Commission has already approved spending $25 million of that immediately.

House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) has offered a $275 million plan that will include sending some use tax revenues to cities and counties for infrastructure and eliminating the 4 percent income tax bracket and replacing it with a gasoline tax increase.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he's opposed to any gasoline tax increase.

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