Governor Lee Touts New Transportation Infrastructure Bill in Chattanooga

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Tennessee Governor Bill Lee made a visit to the Scenic City today.

He was here to promote a piece of legislation that he hopes will transform roads across the Volunteer State.

With a net increase of over 500,000 new residents in the state of Tennessee, Governor Lee believes that the Transportation Modernization Act will help Tennessee prepare its roads for the coming decades.

Lee said that, “We have a rapidly growing state and we’re excited about how this Transportation Modernization Act is going to provide the future for Tennessee.”

The bill will be presented to the state legislature at its upcoming session. Lee mentioned that, “We’ve been talking about this for a couple of years, we’ve been thinking about it for more than that.”

One of the key components of the bill is to address congestion on both urban and rural interstates. The plan calls for widening rural interstates from two to three lanes like we see with I-75 across North Georgia.

In addition, Governor Lee discussed what he called “choice lanes”. These would be similar to express lanes found in other states like Georgia, such as the Peach Pass toll lanes found in the Atlanta metro. Lee says that, “We also want to give people a choice, if they choose to, to move over into a lane that will be a fee-driven lane that they can get into during traffic.”

The Governor explained how these projects would be funded through a private-public partnership. He said that, “One of the ways we do that is in our new way of partnering with the private sector when they invest in the urban center projects, in a way that frees up dollars so we can spend them on the rural projects.”

 He mentioned that Tennessee is the only state in the southeast that does not utilize private-public partnerships in roadway construction.

He also mentioned that using the gas tax to fund construction projects like the state does now will become less reliable as the adoption of electric vehicles continues to increase. The gas tax currently brings in about $500 million dollars per year in revenue for projects.This pales in comparison to what will be needed to make all of the upgrades needed across the state as Lee said that,  “We have 30 billion dollars of needs in this state.”

Despite the hefty price tag, Lee says that, “Allowing our roads to not be maintained will cost us significantly down the road, we have to keep up with what we’ve got. That won’t stop, but we haven’t been doing is building new roads.”

Other key components of the bill is the goal of halving the amount of time projects are completed. According to the state, right now it takes about 15 years for the average construction project to be completed, the Governor hopes that bringing in the private sector will help with that process will cut that time in half.

Additionally, TDOT will raise salaries for its employees by eliminating 500 vacancies and redistributing those funds as a part of the bill.  The bill also is calling for a change in the structure of project planning within TDOT to be more collaborative.

The Tennessee General Assembly convenes next Tuesday to begin their Spring 2023 session. To learn about the Governor’s proposal, visit https://www.tn.gov/tdot/build-with-us.html.

 

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