Haslam Finishes Statewide Listening Tour on Tennessee Transportation and Infrastructure Needs

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 | 2:03pm

Common themes: costs have tripled in last 20 years; high-quality network critical to state

NASHVILLE – Last week Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer wrapped up a six-week, 15-city listening tour about the state’s transportation and infrastructure challenges and opportunities, hearing specific needs from rural and urban communities to address safety, quality of life and economic development.

More than 700 state legislators, mayors, other local elected officials, business leaders, chamber of commerce executives, local infrastructure officials and community members attended the meetings with common themes emerging: the cost of transportation projects has roughly tripled in the last 20 years; and Tennesseans want the state to continue to provide a high-quality network that is safe, reliable and helps attract businesses.

Tennessee spends the third least per person on its roads and bridges while having the third ranked transportation system in the U.S.

“Our challenge is how we as a state address critical transportation needs as cars and trucks get better and better mileage and the cost of building and maintaining our roads and bridges continues to increase,” Haslam said. “When it comes time to pass Tennessee’s infrastructure system on to the next generation, we want to be able to do what our parents and grandparents did, which is give them a system free of debt and of the highest quality in the nation.”

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.

Right now Tennessee has a $6.1 billion backlog of road and bridge projects addressing safety, access and economic development issues that have been approved but do not have funding.

A 2015 Tennessee Comptroller’s report on transportation funding states that revenues are not expected to be sufficient to maintain current infrastructure. Cars and trucks are more fuel-efficient, construction and labor costs have risen, and Congress has not passed a long-term transportation funding bill in 10 years. Tennessee’s population is expected to grow by 2 million by 2040, which puts a greater demand on the state’s infrastructure.