Guest editorial by Rep. Steven M. Palazzo
I am proud to join the Jones County Economic Development Authority, local elected officials and the community at large in supporting the designation of Interstate-14 along the route of Highway 84. I believe it is a major economic growth opportunity for Jones County, connecting the area to large commerce and population centers west of the county. I have always been supportive of the I-14 project and the vital impact it will have on the city of Laurel and our surrounding communities.
Interstate-14 from West Texas to Mississippi, or “Gulf Coast Strategic Highway,” was authorized in the 2015 FAST Act Highway bill, and segments of it are now open. This is a designation, not a new highway construction. Last Congress, my friend, Texas Rep. Brian Babin introduced new legislation that retains the original route and adds additional spurs extending the route beyond the Texas border and across central Louisiana and Mississippi.
There are plans to re-introduce that legislation this year, and I agreed to pledge my support to be an original co-sponsor of this bill. Currently, we are working alongside the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition to strengthen support for the bill in Congress and ensure that Mississippi’s transportation needs are met.
While there is no doubt of the economic and competitive benefits for Jones County and the surrounding region, the I-14 proposal is also known as the “Forts to Ports” highway because it would connect several ports and military installations in Texas and Louisiana. From these forts and ports, our fighting men and women from around the nation will train and deploy worldwide. I’ve been working to insert provisions in the bill that would add connector routes that include Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center and the Port of Gulfport to make sure Mississippi can fully contribute to the “Forts to Ports” strategic highway.
The Mississippi Army National Guard continues to play a vital role in missions abroad and training troops from around the country prior to their deployment. Look no further than Laurel’s 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the 155th Brigade Combat Team that are currently deployed to the Middle East. Camp Shelby played an integral role in their pre-deployment training and mobilization as Camp Shelby has done for hundreds of thousands of troops from around the country for more than a century.
I’m proud to be a part of this legislation that will provide more economic growth opportunities for Jones County, as well as the State of Mississippi. I support I-14 because it is good for our warfighter, makes Mississippi’s transportation routes more competitive and is good for Jones County.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I also look forward to working with my colleagues to secure the funding for this crucial infrastructure project.
Rep. Steven M. Palazzo is a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard and is the senior House Republican from Mississippi who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.