MDOT Cuts off Road Funding to Jackson

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Federal funding for the North State Street TIGER grant project has been cut off, at least temporarily.

On Monday, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) suspended funding for the project.

In a letter dated July 9, the agency said it was suspending federal and state funding on all projects under construction in the city, because the city had not completed its audit.

"MDOT has suspended payments to the city of Jackson and future projects will not be considered," according to the letter, which was signed by P. Diane Gavin, the agency's audit director. "The suspension is effective immediately."

The audit was due to the agency on June 30 but had not been completed at press time. The audit has been delayed after a new independent auditing firm discovered discrepancies in some of the city's past accounting systems. 

Public Works Director Robert Miller said the audit should be completed by July 31, and that he was planning to talk with contractors currently working on state and federally sponsored road construction projects.

He and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told the city’s one-percent commission today that they hope that the projects won’t be delayed, and if so, only for a matter of weeks.

The city should be able to ask MDOT to lift the suspension in September, pending no problems with the audit.

Miller said whether the projects are delayed depends on contractors’ “appetite” for demobilizing crews or continuing work and waiting longer to get reimbursed.

The city had not met with contractors at press time.

Jeff Altman, director of MDOT’s LPA division, said the suspension will affect all projects, including both North State projects, the West County Line Road project, and the Fondren Streetscape project and the Northside Drive Project.

Construction on the North State reconstruction project got under way this spring.

Last fall, the city brought on Hemphill Construction, for approximately $19.6 million. Work includes rebuilding the street from Hartfield Street to Sheppard Road, and replacing the water and sewer infrastructure underneath.

That project, along with W. County Line, is being funded with nearly $19.5 million in federal TIGER grant dollars.

Under the terms of the agreement, Jackson pays for the work upfront and is reimbursed by the state after it submits invoices.

The Fondren Streetscape Project is being funded with a $2 million federal grant and includes rebuilding the sidewalks and pedestrian features in the Fondren Business District.

Construction on that project is also under way.

Two other federally funded projects, one to pave East Northside Drive between I-55 north and North State, and one to pave North State between Fortification Street and Woodrow Wilson Avenue, are being funded with nearly $3.3 million in federal funds.

Both are currently in the design phase.

Altman said MDOT will allow the design phases to continue but will not allow the streets to be bid out for construction.

A copy of the letter can be found on our Web site, under the news and documents tabs.

 

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