October 31, 2014
Drivers across Tennessee are going to have to endure congested roads longer than expected because of a lack of promised federal money. TDOT’s commissioner sent a letter to members of the Tennessee general assembly telling them 12 projects ready for construction and 21 ready for right of way acquisition will be delayed. Bridge repairs and other maintenance projects will take priority. The delays are the result of congress failing to pass a long-term funding plan for the Highway Trust Fund.
“Since we do not have a full fiscal years funding, the department has had to scale back on future contracts and re-prioritize which projects we let to contract in our December letting and through May 2015,” Commissioner John Schroer wrote in a letter to members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
The Highway Trust Fund provides about half of TDOT’s operating budget and 90% of the money TDOT uses for road expansions. The combined delays equal around $400 million in road projects. That is in addition to $40 million in projects delayed over the summer when TDOT was unsure if any funding would be allocated to the Highway Trust Fund to fulfill promised funding from the government.
“The instability in the flow of these dollars is certainly having an impact on Tennesseans today,” Schroer wrote. “Our competition in the developing markets of China, India and Brazil, among others is making the investments in infrastructure that we are not making that will ultimately impact our ability to be economically competitive on the world stage. “
The projects are delayed, not cancelled. Drivers like Karla Bass do not like construction, but they do like the outcome if it means less congested roads. She told News 2 hitting heavy traffic is frustrating.
“We were moving along pretty well until we got about 10 miles from where we are right here and then traffic went to a dead stop,” she said. “We decided we were going to get off the interstate even though we didn’t know where we are and find another route around.”
She continued, “We are going to keep going so hopefully we can get in at a reasonable time.”
Commissioner Schroer urged members of the General Assembly to contact Tennessee’s congressional delegation to urge them to find a long term transportation funding plan.