Jackson Mississippi Airport Parkway - call for toll concession developer
By Peter Samuel
Mississippi DOT is looking for investor groups to develop a new highspeed toll link between downtown Jackson and the Airport - 20km (12 miles) of expressway including a major new bridge over the Pearl River. The project which goes back nearly two decades has also been known as the Airport Parkway and MS25 Connectors because a lot of the expected traffic will come from north and east of the Airport - Flowood, Perl, Brandon and the Ross Barnette lake.
All the roadway will be 2+2 lane expressway built to interstate standards.
Project cost is put at between $320m and $400m. Permitting has been completed, some of the right of way has been acquired, and substantial design work already done. As far back as 1995 an Airport Parkway Commission was formed, a joint powers muncipal agency of the mayors of Flowood, Pearl and Jackson to manage the project based on federal and state grants.
Case study in futility of tax-&-grant
In a splendid case study of the ineffectuality of tax-&-grant funding for roads 13 years have passed and $34m has been spent, and nothing has been built. Despite a recent hike in the state gas tax officials said reliance on tax funds would not see the Parkway built for about another 15 to 20 years.
With tolls the project can be built in three to four years.
The parkway would be more direct for trips to the Jackson-Evers Airport. The edge of the downtown to the edge of the airport is just 8km (5 miles). The present route between the two is to hook south on I-55 to I-20 and then east to Airport Road and northward again, a distance of 14.2km (8.8 miles). That's from the eastern fringe of downtown to the southern entry to the airport. By our measurement using g-map-pedometer (an adaption of Google Maps) the Airport Parkway would be 9.6km (6 miles), a distance saving of 4.6km (2.8 miles).
The planned roadway at the downtown end taps three east-west streets in a collector and interchange before crossing the about 1.8km (1.1 mile) wide Pearl River plain. There are interchanges with MS468 and another planned arterial. Then the road splits, one segment heading on to an interchange with MS475 and the southern entrance to the airport. The other branch heads northeast also interchanging with MS475 and ending at east-west MS25.
There are six interchanges and about five segments to toll.
(By one account the western end "pitchfork" design of collecting three downtown streets will be scrapped and the Parkway will connect to the central High Street only.)
JP Morgan are financial advisers to the state in the procurement of a developer/concessionaire.
project website: www.theairportparkway.com
Mississippi law on concessions
2007 Senate Bill 2375 (MS Code of 1972, 65-43-1 through 39) constitutes enabling legislation for tolling in Mississippi. In
2008 House Bill 3 amended this statute to extend the maximum contract term length to 50 years, provide for an enforcement and collection system, and clarify property tax exemptions relating to toll roads.
Mississippi Transportation Commission, counties and municipal authorities are given authority to:
- construct, operate and maintain, individually or jointly with other governmental entities, one or more new toll roads or toll bridges
- and/or contract, individually or jointly with other governmental entities, or with corporations, partnerships or other businesses for design, finance, construction, operating and maintaining new toll roads or toll bridges
Rules for Mississippi toll concessions provide:
- there must be a free alternate route
- unsolicited proposals may be submitted to government entities, or they may solicit
- existing road may not be tolled
- tollroads must be built and maintained at least to the minimum design standards established by the governmental entity
- concession terms will be a maximum of 50 years
- detolling will occur at the end of the concession
- title to the roadway will remain throughout
- the concessionaire will be exempt from property tax
BACKGROUND: Jackson is Mississippi's seat of government (capital). Top manufacturing employer is a Nissan car factory employing a workforce of 5300 putting out 400k vehicles/year in Canton in the northern part of the metro area. A number of parts manufacturers have plants there too, the largest being Delphi.
The city proper has 180k population but the four-county Jackson metro area is about 490k. The Census Bureau's Jackson metro statistical area was 497k in 2000 and is around 520k currently. Population has been growing about 3%/yr in recent years.
Median household income in 2000 was $39.5k in the Jackson area vs $45k average for the US.
The 4-county area has about 370k registered motor vehicles.
Local metro area planning assumes a growth in population of the Jackson urbanized area from 411k in 2000 to 592k in 2030.
Most important a vigorous reformist governor Haley Barbour (Repub) has transformed the legal climate in the state by fighting a vigorous fight against tort law racketeers in a state previously notorious for its hospitality to crooked lawyers and judges. Dickie Scruggs the most notorious Mississippi gangster is on his way to jail and other lawyer-racketeers are being prosecuted or run out of business by tort law reform.
Stephen Moore reports in the Wall Street Journal that under Barbour the Mississippi economy has rebounded, attracting many new businesses. Unemployment under Barbour has declined from above the US average at 9% to 6%. (WSJ 2008-05-10)
On a personal note we met Barbour in the mid 1990s, possibly 1996 or 1997 here in Washington DC when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee. He hosted a dinner with a small policy group to which we spoke on tollroads, so far as we can remember, on electronic tolling, and the opportunities for private enterprise to operate them. Barbour, we remember as a likable, curious and quickwitted bear of a man.
The city of Jackson is named after Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) seventh US president (1829-1837) a warrior president. Scars on his cheek that he bore all his life were from the sword of a British officer whose boots he refused to polish as an act of defiance when a teenage prisoner in the Revolutionary War. In the War of 1812 Jackson led outnumbered American forces to victory over British forces in the Battle of New Orleans. He had irregular marital relations - not unusual among presidents - but what was unusual was that Jackson fought no fewer than 13 duels with people he said had impugned his honor, He carried a number of bullets in his body too tricky for surgeons of the day to remove.
pictures of Jackson scenes copyright QT Luong