Monroe County, Miss.,'s most traveled east-west thoroughfare is undergoing a much-needed repaving, strictly funded by proceeds from the Mississippi Lottery.
According to Drew Parker of the Mississippi Department of Transportation's (MDOT) Monroe County project office, the final leg of work on U.S. 278, extending from the future Mississippi 125 eastward to MS 8 East in Wise Gap, is expected to be complete by December. A preceding leg from MS 8 to the Alabama state line is already complete.
MDOT Public Information Officer Jace Ponder said the 6-mi. portion of U.S. 278 from the Alabama line to MS 8 was completed at a cost of $1.74 million, while the second portion's 8 mi. from MS 8 to the intersection of MS 125 in Amory cost of $2.89 million.
No further repaving west of the future MS 125 interchange currently is scheduled.
"The work from Highway 8 to Highway 25 was originally scheduled for fiscal year 2021, but the availability of lottery funds made it possible to get that leg done this year," Ponder said.
According to Ponder, the repaving work on U.S. 278 was scheduled as part of a three-year maintenance plan.
"State lottery funds authorized by the legislature amount to less than 10 percent of the $1.1 billion budget for road maintenance in Mississippi and are often used to supplement projects that may not qualify for federal funding."
He explained that most resurfacing projects have a projected lifespan of 10 to 15 years.
"It all depends on the type and amount of traffic using the road. When unscheduled problems occur such as bridge failures or washouts, repair work is funded out of the maintenance budget, which might defer the time schedule on other projects waiting to be done," Ponder added.
Mississippi Northern District Transportation Commissioner John Caldwell said U.S. 278 has been in dire need of repair for a while.
"The legislature did the right thing," he said of the dedication of lottery funds. "We need to prioritize funding to repair the roads that we have, especially for the ones that don't qualify for federal funds."
So far, through the previous and current fiscal years, approximately 250 mi. have been paved statewide as a result of monies provided by the Mississippi Lottery, according to Ponder.
Special signs placed along the construction zones read, "Project Funded by Mississippi Lottery – Thank Your State Legislator."
According to Mississippi Lottery Corporation Director of Communications Meg Annison, the state's lottery is set up to benefit both the infrastructure and education systems of Mississippi. Per the Alyce G. Clarke Mississippi Lottery Law passed during the 2018 session of the Mississippi Legislature, net proceeds of as much as $80 million will be paid into the State Highway Fund until June 30, 2028. In turn, the Fund will use the money to repair, renovate and maintain highways and bridges across the state.