Hattiesburg Celebrates National Infrastructure Week

Hattiesburg Celebrates National Infrastructure Week

Hattiesburg, Mississippi – A city’s infrastructure is the foundational piece for which growth depends; 140 years since its incorporation, the City of Hattiesburg understands that deeply. 

In the last decade, city officials have made great strides in improving infrastructure that impacts the daily lives of all residents and visitors—from miles and miles of paved roads to much-needed investments and upgrades to water and sewer. These investments have required collaboration across local, regional, and national partners.

To celebrate National Infrastructure Week, which takes place May 13 – 17, city officials are highlighting several projects made possible by once-in-a-generation investments in communities across the country. 

“A central focus for our administration has been heavy investment in Hattiesburg’s infrastructure. This involves trying to catch up in areas traditionally overlooked and planning ahead in others,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “Infrastructure Week allows us to spotlight legislation at the federal and state level that has given us the capacity to meet the challenges of being a 140-year-old city. Our commitment to our residents is to continue pursuing funding to strengthen our prospects for development and better the quality of life.”

Water Plant #1 Sees Much-Needed Upgrades

 The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provided $50 billion for essential water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure upgrades. Thanks to this law, the Mississippi State Department of Health received additional funding and flexibility for its Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. Through this program, the City of Hattiesburg has made critical upgrades to Water Plant #1. These include: 

    • A new rapid mix tank
    • A modernized lime feeder uses a powder lime that can be dropped into the rapid mix tank and does not have to be pumped, avoiding clogging and malfunctions.
    • Filter rehab
    • New access stairs for employee safety
    • Chlorine vent fan, a much-needed safety feature

This funding also allowed the City to obtain up to 35% back in loan forgiveness, which makes a portion of this project funded by the state and federal government. In total, the project cost $1,305,095. 

The BIL also strengthened the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Pollution Control Revolving Loan Fund for wastewater improvements. The City is currently applying to access these funds for further work on its sewer system. 

Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act Helps Pave Hattiesburg

Since 2017, city officials have prioritized paving, continually increasing their year-over-year budget to ensure that every ward sees progress. In total, the City paved more than 122 miles. While funding has been allocated each year through general fund spending and water/sewer improvement projects, the City used funding from the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act to pave longer stretches of road.

The Mississippi Legislature passed this act in 2018. It includes a diversion of use tax for local infrastructure improvement. It phased in over four years, and 35% of the 7% use tax for internet and out-of-state sales went back to local governments for infrastructure improvements.

Local disbursements for Hattiesburg began in 2020, and the extra boost in infrastructure funding contributed to the paving of Weathersby Road, Old Hwy 42 (between Highway 49 and Bouie Street) and Lincoln Road.  

American Rescue Plan Act & Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure Program 

In 2021, the City of Hattiesburg received $12.8 million in funding from the American Rescue Plana Act to meet immediate and long-term needs like water/sewer infrastructure, broadband access and public health infrastructure. 

In 2022, the Mississippi Legislature allocated statewide ARPA money as a matching opportunity for local municipalities to use their APRA allocations through the Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure (MCWI) Grant Program. This program incentivizes cities to steer ARPA allocations toward long-term, strategic investments by giving a 1:1 match on water, sewer and stormwater projects. 

For Hattiesburg, the initial $12.8 million allocated by Congress translated into more than $22 million in water, sewer and stormwater projects through the state’s matching program. 

Since 2022, the City has received approval for nine MCWI projects – with two currently underway along Edwards Street and Martin Luther King Avenue. Additional projects include Irene Chapel (drainage), Penton Street/Magnolia Avenue/Cedar Street  (drainage/sewer/water), West 7th & Eupora Street (sewer/water/stormwater), Gordon’s Creek, Lincoln Road/Sangria Drive/S. 34th Avenue (drainage), West 7th Street/25th Avenue/Grace Avenue (drainage) and S. 40th Avenue (stormwater).

Since 2017, the City has installed and rehabbed a total of 58.28 miles of water and sewer infrastructure. These MCWI projects will continue to grow that number. 

Transformational Projects Exist Because of BUILD & CRISI

While many projects occur throughout the City’s footprint, none are as transformational as the Hall East and Hall West Overpass.

This project was announced in October 2020 with the award of $13.22 million in federal funding from the Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, better known as the BUILD grant. This grant, one of the most substantial grants in Hattiesburg’s recent history, joins the $5.39 million in federal funding from the DOT’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant that the City received in the earlier part of 2020 for the construction of the Hall Avenue East Overpass.

These funding sources help build two grade-separated crossings and solve one of the City’s most significant transportation issues – blocked railroad crossings.

As one part of the overpass nears completion and the other continues to make significant progress, a need for additional funding lingers due to rising construction costs, supply and demand issues, etc. To help the City cover the last remaining costs of the Hall Avenue West Overpass, the U.S. Senate passed HR 4366, which included $3 million earmarked specifically for this project. 

Post-Covid cost increases and supply chain issues increased the cost of the Hall Avenue West Overpass from a projected $13 million to $24 million. The federal BUILD grant was for $13 million, and the City was on the hook for the remaining $11 million, slated to be taken from the City’s use tax revenues (internet sales tax) for 2023, 2024 and part of 2025. 

This additional infusion of federal assistance means that the City can use part of the 2024 and all of the 2025 use tax revenue for other major roadway projects, allowing those projects to move forward sooner rather than later. 

In addition to significant water and sewer infrastructure projects and paving, the City has installed more than 61,991 feet of new sidewalks. 

Generational investments in infrastructure upgrades and a consistent budgeting process that allows for additional spending continue to improve the quality of life for generations to come. This would only be possible with strategic partnerships and collaboration across all levels of government.