NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Gov. Phil Bredesen has promised the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) that it will receive all revenue from the state’s gas tax in the next budget year.
The gas tax raises approximately $65 million in revenue — money that was diverted to the state’s general fund at the start of Bredesen’s term in 2003 to help balance the strapped state budget.
Bredesen restored half of the revenue from the gas tax to the Transportation Department for the current budget year. The next budget year begins July 1.
Most of the additional $33 million TDOT was poised to receive in the next budget year would go to road projects, TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely said.
“It’s all going on the ground — mostly small-type projects where we’ll be putting that money — plus $1 million will be going to mass transit,” Nicely said following a budget hearing with Bredesen.
Of the $33 million, approximately $10 million would go to construction projects funded fully by the state without federal help, $8 million to pay for access roads for major industries, $7.8 million to highway maintenance, $4 million for highway improvements, $2 million for roads to connect cities with interstates and $1 million to benefit mass transit programs.
Nicely said department officials and lawmakers would discuss possible sources of additional revenue over the next year. TDOT officials have said they need to increase their revenue by $2 billion over the next 10 years to improve congestion problems on state roads.
Ideas already generating some interest are toll roads and public-private road partnerships.
“We’re trying to look very long term, a variety of options,” Nicely said. “I understand that some of the legislators are going to give us some options legislatively, and we’ll certainly be glad to look at them.”
Bredesen said he was open to the idea of a toll road, but didn’t know where a toll road might be located in Tennessee.
“When it comes to where you would put a road in Tennessee that somebody would pay to drive on when they could just have easily take a road alongside it somewhere, it’s not obvious to me where that is,” he said.
Another possibility would be upping the state’s 21.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax. Bredesen said he wouldn’t rule out a gas tax increase, but didn’t have any plans to call for an increase.
“I’m open to any thoughts about how you might better finance transportation projects, but I certainly don’t have any in mind at the moment,” the governor said.