During his fifth “State-of-the-State” address on February 6, Governor Bill Lee (R) (above) proposed to invest billions in state funds into Tennessee’s transportation system.
[Above photo by the Tennessee Governor’s Office]
“It’s time to invest in a transportation strategy,” he said in his remarks before the state legislature. “Here’s the bottom line – there is a great cost to doing nothing. We can easily kick the can down the road for four more years, but Tennesseans will pay the price for it with more potholes, longer commutes, and less economic activity.”
Gov. Lee proposed investing $3 billion into a “Transportation Modernization Fund” to alleviate urban congestion and fund rural road projects statewide. That includes allocating $750 million to each of the four state regions managed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, along with $300 million to expand the State Aid Program for local road projects
The governor also proposed what he called “new comprehensive legislation” centering on alternative delivery models for transportation projects, the greater use of public-private partnerships, plus new fees for fully electric and hybrid-electric vehicles to help bolster state road funding in lieu of motor fuel taxes.
“Right now, there’s a $26 billion backlog of projects across the state. Simply put, we are way behind, and we have to change the way we fund and build our roads and bridges,” Gov. Lee explained.
“We also know that we have to tackle big, urban projects, but if we don’t change the strategy, we all know who would end up paying the price – our rural communities,” he added.
“That’s why I’m introducing the Transportation Modernization Act – a plan to engage public-private partnerships to build additional choice lanes on urban highways, to ensure electric vehicle owners pay their share in maintaining our roads, and to provide a delivery model that builds rural and urban projects faster, all without the burden falling on Tennessee taxpayers,” the governor said.
Gov. Lee emphasized that “toll roads are not on the table” as part of his proposal. Rather, “we’re talking about choice lanes, public-private partnerships, new delivery models – solutions that have worked for states across the country, including our friends in Texas and Florida. In combination with this new strategy, we have to jumpstart the process and make a major initial investment just to begin to catch up.”
The governor added that his proposed transportation investments are critical to attracting businesses to Tennessee and creating jobs.
“We have an obligation to prepare our state for the future, and the time to do so is now,” he said.