Press release from the Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, August 17, 2015:
Governor visiting 15 communities to hear about local opportunities and challenges
GREENEVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer sat down with local and state officials in Greeneville today to discuss the region’s transportation and infrastructure needs.
In a meeting this afternoon at the Greene County Partnership, Haslam and Schroer discussed the functionality and capacity of Tennessee’s state roads and highways, safety issues around roads and bridges, and the impact infrastructure has on economic development efforts in urban and rural communities.
Tennessee’s transportation system includes 95,000 miles of roads, 1,100 miles of interstates, 19,000 bridges, 28 transit systems in 95 counties, 79 general aviation airports, 949 miles of waterways and more than 3,000 miles of railroads.
“The quality of Tennessee’s transportation and infrastructure system always ranks at or near the top when compared to the rest of the country,” Haslam said. “We have no transportation debt, and we do a great job maintaining our roads, but we know we have challenges on the horizon. We know that we can’t depend on the federal government to be the funding partner that it once was. We also know that as our infrastructure ages, maintenance becomes more important and more expensive. And we know that maintaining our roads is only part of the equation. Right now we have a multi-billion dollar backlog of highway projects across this state that address key access, safety and economic development issues, and that’s only going to grow.”
A 2015 Tennessee Comptroller’s report on transportation funding states that revenues are not expected to be sufficient to maintain current infrastructure.
Cars are more fuel-efficient, construction and labor costs have risen, and Congress hasn’t passed a long-term transportation funding bill in a decade. Tennessee’s population is expected to grow by 2 million by 2040, which puts a greater demand on the state’s infrastructure.
“TDOT is responsible for taking care of the assets we already have, for implementing current projects in the most cost-effective way, and for planning for the state’s infrastructure needs of the future,” Schroer said. “We look to Tennessee communities to help prioritize projects to make sure we’re addressing evolving traffic patterns, population growth, safety issues, and the many other things that impact our infrastructure, and these conversations are invaluable to the process.”
Since 2010 TDOT has invested $101 million state dollars on first and last mile road projects serving industrial expansion and recruitment helping to create nearly 29,000 jobs for 108 companies in Tennessee.
Funded primarily by state and federal gas taxes, TDOT gets no money from the General Fund. Funding uncertainty from the Federal Highway Trust Fund forced TDOT to delay $400 million in highway projects in 2015.
- TDOT officials discussed the cost of several projects in the region:
- The re-construction of US 321 (SR 35) in Greene County from the Cocke County line to US 11E near Greenville has an estimated cost of completion of $81.2 million.
- The estimated cost of construction of the proposed Newport Bypass in Cocke County from US 25 to Saint Tide Hollow Road is $56 million.
- To complete improvements to US 321 (SR-32) from SR 32 at Cosby to Wilton Springs Road in Cocke County is estimated to cost $55 million to complete.
- The widening of US 11E (SR 34) in Hamblen County from US 25E to Steadman Road east of Russellville has an estimated cost of completion of $63.3 million.
In addition to Greeneville, Haslam has held transportation and infrastructure discussions in Memphis, Clarksville, Jackson, Nashville, Franklin and Kingsport, and he will visit Shelbyville, Murfreesboro, Crossville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Lenoir City, Knoxville and Union City in the coming weeks.