The Jones County Board of Supervisors and Laurel City Council both signed resolutions of support for an Interstate 14 expansion project that would bring the “Forts to Ports” highway to Jones County.
The sole purpose of the resolution is to get Rep. Steven Palazzo on board with the proposal. He’s the only member of the state’s Congressional delegation who wasn’t supporting it, and without him, the I-14 expansion would stop in Brookhaven.
That’s because 100 percent Congressional support is a requirement for the Trump administration’s transportation people. That’s what Ross Tucker, executive director of the Jones County Economic Development Authority, told supervisors in a recent meeting.
“Any Congressional seats that are not signed on will be excluded,” Tucker told them.
Natchez and the communities in Louisiana are taking action to make the extension a reality in their jurisdictions, according to the resolution, because “I-14 will connect a significant number of military installations, seaports, major cities and large highways to each other, and Laurel, Mississippi should share in this significant extension and would greatly benefit both economically and socially therefrom.”
Mayor Johnny Magee and board President Jerome Wyatt resolved to deliver the resolutions to Palazzo to show their community’s “strong request” for his support of the extension and that he “take appropriate action” by “co-sponsoring legislation in support of the extension of I-14.”
The project didn’t get in the budget last year and it is being considered again this year, Tucker said. The first 25-mile section of I-14 — in Texas, from near Goodfellow Air Force Base in Killeen and Fort Hood to I-35 in Belton — was added to the Interstate Highway System in 2017. The proposal calls for I-14 to continue from West Texas to Louisiana, through Fort Polk, then cross the Mississippi River at Natchez and follow U.S. 84, just north of Camp Shelby, to I-59 in Laurel.
The proposal has I-14 crossing over main thoroughfares that provide access to the military ports in Corpus Christi, Texas and Beaumont, Texas, which are well south of the proposed route.
The Mississippi Transportation Commission supports the project, pointing to the potential for economic growth in the southwest part of the state.
Tucker put the project in perspective, saying that the passage of a bill “doesn’t mean it’s going to be built any time soon … but we don’t want to be excluded on the front end.”
He summed it up for supervisors with this: “If we don’t get Palazzo’s support, it will end in Brookhaven. We want it to end at I-59 in Laurel.”